With the game tied at 7 in its opener Aug. 30, the Pickerington North football team was on the verge of forcing Olentangy Liberty to punt early in the third quarter.
That's when the momentum seemed to shift, as the Panthers were whistled for defensive holding on third-and-7.
Liberty took advantage of the penalty by getting a 46-yard run from Aidan Kenley two plays later and a 10-yard touchdown from quarterback Corbin Parrish to Kyle Wilson two plays after that. The Patriots scored again on their next possession and went on to win 31-19.
North hopes to learn from that sequence as it prepares to play host to Clayton Northmont on Friday, Sept. 6. The Thunderbolts opened Aug. 30 with a 17-7 loss to Dublin Coffman.
"We had a couple blown assignments on some zone-read plays that got us," coach Nate Hillerich said. "(Liberty) made a few plays. We had a penalty on a third-and-long on their first series when the game was tied to start the second half. When you look back, we're going to look at three to four plays that changed the game."
North found out just a few days before its opener that it would be going with senior Dom Myers at quarterback rather than junior Gio Thomas, who moved out of state.
According to Hillerich, Thomas was going to miss the first two games because of a suspension. Thomas was expected to have to sit out the final five games as well because of the OHSAA transfer rule.
Myers ended up being the focal point of the offense because the Panthers were only able to muster 15 yards rushing. It didn't help that junior running back Idris Lawrence missed most of the first half because of an injury.
Throwing mostly short passes, Myers finished 34-for-59 for 281 yards with three touchdowns and one interception.
Chris Scott had 15 receptions for 114 yards and a touchdown, Hayden Kaltenecker had four receptions for 64 yards and one score and Jack Sawyer added eight catches for 60 yards.
North's next opponent also focuses on throwing the ball.
Against Coffman, Thunderbolts senior quarterback Keaton Kesling completed 17 of 36 passes for 216 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions as his team finished with just 18 yards rushing on 17 carries.
Senior wide receiver Jazz Keys had eight catches for 137 yards and a touchdown and senior wide receiver Justin Golson added six receptions for 80 yards.
"If we're going to be able to beat the good teams like Liberty, we're going to have to find some type of running game," Hillerich said. "What I told our guys is that we've got to get in, get better and move on because we're back at it (against Northmont)."