As has become its ritual following a big victory, the Pickerington Central football team divided its players into numerous groups for celebratory photos after the Division I state final Dec. 6 at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton.

There were seniors celebrating with the trophy, members of the other classes being photographed together as well as members of the coaching staff, and coach Jay Sharrett posed with different groups, in between doing interviews on the field.

It was similar to 2017 when the Tigers won their first state championship, but the feeling of beating Cincinnati Elder 21-14 to capture their second title was a fresh experience for all who took part.

"When I see our guys taking a knee (to run out the clock), with that senior class that was (a part of the title run) two years ago, I think once you get here it shows you how bad you want to get back here," Sharrett said. "That's why we're state champs."

Central, which finished 14-1 as it did in 2017, became the second big-school program from central Ohio to capture two state championships, joining Hilliard Davidson (2006 and '09).

Also having won at least two state titles from the area are Hartley (four in Division IV), DeSales (three in Division III) and Watterson (two in Division III). The only other central Ohio team to win a Division I title was Upper Arlington in 2000.

The Tigers moved to 2-2 all-time in state finals after having lost the Division II state final to Piqua in 2006 and the Division I state final to Cleveland St. Ignatius in 2011.

Elder finished 12-3 and dropped to 2-2 in state finals, with its titles coming in 2002 and '03. Its other state final loss was in 2008, when it beat Central 24-10 in a state semifinal before falling to St. Ignatius in the final.

"First thing is that we've been state runners-up before and it breaks your heart," Sharrett said. "It was just an absolute slugfest, toe-to-toe and anyone that got a ticket got their money's worth today."

The only key players who also played in the 2017 state final were senior quarterback Demeatric Crenshaw and junior wide receiver and defensive back Lorenzo Styles Jr., and the duo proved to be a difference-making combination.

Crenshaw rushed for a state-record six touchdowns in a 56-28 victory over Mentor in the 2017 title game and starred again against Elder, hitting Styles Jr. on a 49-yard touchdown pass with 3 minutes, 41 seconds left for the winning score.

Then, after Elder turned the ball over on downs on the ensuing possession, Crenshaw ran for 16 yards to move Central to the Panthers' 33 with 1:42 remaining. That set up victory formation on the final two plays, with Elder being out of timeouts.

The win capped a four-year stretch in which Central has gone 51-7, won two state titles and made state semifinal appearances in 2016 and '18.

"All these guys, I love every single one of them," Crenshaw said. "Coming into high school with these guys, everybody says we want to win a state championship together, and to actually do it is big."

julrey@thisweeknews.com

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