With defense neutralizing what both teams tried to do offensively for most of the first three quarters Oct. 18, it was fitting that a long interception return played a key role in deciding the outcome of the latest matchup between the Pickerington Central and host Pickerington North football teams.

The Tigers managed only a field goal in the first half but used a 55-yard interception return by Gavin Edwards to set up their first touchdown and went on to beat the Panthers 16-7.

Central, which improved to 13-3 all-time against the Panthers, is now 7-1 overall and sits in first place in the OCC-Ohio Division at 3-0, while North dropped to 4-4 overall and 2-1 in the league.

“We know it’s a rivalry, we know they’re going to come as hard as they can, so it was just defense locking in,” Tigers quarterback Demeatric Crenshaw said. “Gavin having that interception really turned the momentum going around.”

Edwards’ interception return to the North 25 came with the Tigers trailing 7-3. Four plays later, running back Nick Mosley ran for a 1-yard touchdown to give Central a 9-7 lead.

The Tigers’ final scoring drive began with 10 minutes, 14 seconds remaining at their own 38, with runs of 18 yards from Mosley and 19 from Crenshaw moving them into Panthers territory.

Crenshaw ran for 6 yards on third-and-5 from the 11 and scored from 5 yards out on the next play to seal the win.

“(North) played stout football in the first half,” Central coach Jay Sharrett said. “We got that drive when we needed it to seal the game.”

The Panthers took a 7-0 lead with 47 seconds left in the first quarter on a 2-yard run by Idris Lawrence. North forced Central to punt from its own 11 on the previous drive and began the possession at the Tigers’ 43.

On the final play of the first half, Drew Bookman made a 30-yard field goal to cut the Tigers’ deficit to 7-3. Central began the drive at its own 20 with 1:55 remaining in the second quarter.

Crenshaw finished 10-for-11 passing for 66 yards and rushed 18 times for 129 yards and a touchdown and Mosley had nine carries for 57 yards and two catches for 40 yards to lead the Tigers’ offense.

Lawrence rushed for 100 yards on 29 carries to lead the Panthers.

“It was a battle of two really physical teams, two teams that really have similar identities this year and it was pretty even across the board,” North coach Nate Hillerich said. “The difference was the turnovers.”

julrey@thisweeknews.com

@UlreyThisWeek

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Team 1 2 3 4 Final PICKERINGTON CENTRAL 0 3 6 7 16 PICKERINGTON NORTH
7 0 0 0 7

PN—Lawrence 2 run (Pope kick)

PC—Bookman 30 FG

PC—Mosley 1 run (kick failed)

PC—Crenshaw 5 run (Bookman kick)