Lining up a pair of major college recruits within inches of each other has had the exact effect that the Pickerington High School Central football team hoped it would this fall.
With senior Karter Johnson, a move-in from Gahanna and a Texas Christian commit, joining senior DeWayne Carter, a Duke commit, on the defensive line, the Tigers have lived up to their reputation of being one of central Ohio's defensive juggernauts again this season.
After helping Gahanna make the playoffs last fall, Johnson moved into the school district shortly after the Tigers won the Division I state championship last December.
"It's worked out well," Carter said. "We grew up together, played travel sports, basketball and football, and we developed a friendship over the years. They can't double-team us both, so it actually works out in both of our favors. He's a great guy and a great teammate."
Central, which fell to 7-2 overall and 2-2 in the OCC-Ohio Division with a 24-21 loss to Reynoldsburg on Oct. 19, closes the regular season Friday, Oct. 26, against Grove City at Pickerington North. The Dawgs are 0-9 overall and 0-4 in the league and have lost 30 of their last 31 games.
The Tigers have beaten Grove City each of the past eight seasons and nine times in a row overall, with their last loss in the series coming the last time they missed the playoffs, in 2005, when the Dawgs won 12-6 in overtime.
Central, which likely is on its way to a 13th consecutive postseason berth and is looking to secure a home game in the first round of the Division I, Region 3 playoffs, had an experienced player to build its defensive front around this fall in the 6-foot-3, 270-pound Carter, who had 60 tackles last season.
Johnson, who had 14.5 tackles for loss last season for Gahanna, gained more than 40 pounds of muscle in the offseason, putting him at about 6-3, 315 pounds.
Carter usually lines up at tackle, with Johnson typically at end.
Through eight games, Carter had 46 tackles, three sacks, four tackles for loss, one fumble recovery and one forced fumble and Johnson had 25 tackles, two sacks, two tackles for loss, one forced fumble and two pass breakups.
"It's been great playing alongside DeWayne," Johnson said. "He's a great teammate. We've known each other since sixth grade and even before then because I played basketball against him. I moved to Pickerington in December and it's been great. I cannot complain. I've been mostly at (tackle) here. It's been kind of fun using my speed on the outside and having to contain."
Seniors Mike Dunlap, Mario Elmore and Silas Pearson and juniors Abraham Alabi and Ty Hamilton also have taken on key roles on the defensive front for the Tigers, who limited Pickerington North quarterback Mike Lowery to 47 yards passing in a 16-7 victory Oct. 12.
Both Carter and Johnson have seen action at tight end and running back as well.
Another thing they have in common is that their fathers both played football for Ohio State.
Carter's father, also named DeWayne, was a wide receiver for the Buckeyes from 1993-95. Johnson's father, Kevin, was a backup linebacker for the Buckeyes in the late 1990s who went on to play seven seasons in the CFL.
While Carter is considering studying physical therapy when he begins college, Johnson is planning to focus on strength and conditioning with the hopes of someday possibly being a trainer or weight-room coach.
Both are confident in where Central is headed as the postseason approaches.
"I love the steps we're (taking)," Carter said. "My biggest thing coming into season was that I didn't know how our chemistry would be, but as season has gone on, it's been the same thing as last year. They're my brothers."