The first Friday night of the high school football season is in the books, and as always, there was a mix of the expected and a few surprises.
One thing that isn’t new is central Ohio teams play football better than those from Canada, as Pickerington North, DeSales and Olentangy Liberty all picked up easy victories over teams from Ontario.
It also shouldn’t be a surprise that Hilliard Davidson got out to a strong start on defense, shutting out Grove City 24-0, because that’s one thing coach Brian White’s team is well known for.
With apologies to Beechcroft, which opens at 1 p.m. Aug. 26 at Akron Buchtel, here are five things we learned from opening week of the season in central Ohio:
1. Jaelen Gill is back, and he might be as good as he’s ever been.
The Westerville South senior running back and Ohio State recruit had a big sophomore season but missed almost all of last fall with an injury.
During the Wildcats’ 50-14 victory over Dublin Scioto in a game that had delays because of field lighting issues, Gill had three rushing touchdowns and one receiving score and added an interception. If South had played a pickup game of baseball at halftime, Gill, who also is a standout on the diamond, probably would have added a home run to his night.
It’s got to feel like a breath of fresh air for South, which went 1-9 a year ago.
2. Watterson hasn’t had a game go as well as its 41-6 victory over Whitehall in, literally, years.
The Eagles made Division III playoff appearances in 2012 and ’15 but haven’t beaten a team so thoroughly since it posted back-to-back wins of 72-0 and 63-0 during their 2010 state championship season.
3. Westerville North could be a team to watch going forward.
The Warriors went to Groveport and dominated with a 27-0 victory, spoiling the christening of the Cruisers’ new synthetic turf.
Granted, senior Groveport standout wide receiver Izayah Aekins was unable to play because of injury, but the Warriors held the Cruisers to just 98 total yards and six first downs. You have to wonder how much of a difference Aekins might have made.
4. The three Olentangy teams all should be strong this season.
While Liberty, as expected, had no trouble beating Ottawa (Ontario) St. Joseph 49-14, Orange’s defense flexed its muscles during a 32-7 victory over Worthington Kilbourne and Olentangy pulled away for a 45-24 victory over Hilliard Darby. Kilbourne and Darby have made their share of playoff appearances in recent years.
5. Thomas Worthington will indeed have something to celebrate this season.
Losers of 17 in a row, the Cardinals trailed by 17 points at halftime but rallied for a 27-20 double-overtime victory over Canal Winchester.
Talk about a memorable opening night for new Cardinals coach Matt Zingery.