Coach Jay Sharrett noticed a little spring in the step of his Pickerington Central football players during practices this week.
“They know what time of year it is,” Sharrett said. “When some teams start slowing down a bit, our guys kick it into gear. The guys just know that this is our time of year. We’ve been there a few times before and we know what it’s like.”
Clicking on all cylinders, second-seeded Central overwhelmed third-seeded Olentangy Orange 44-0 in a Division I, Region 3 semifinal Nov. 15 at Upper Arlington.
The Tigers (11-1) dominated both lines of scrimmage to earn a spot in their fifth straight regional title game. Central will get a chance to avenge its only defeat when it faces Groveport (11-1) on Nov. 22 at a site to be determined.
A seven-time regional champion, Central is shooting for a fifth straight final four appearance.
“We had a lot of respect for Orange coming in, but advancing through the playoffs is a process. We’ve been there,” Sharrett said. “Our guys have been in these kinds of games a few times and they believe in themselves. Confidence goes a long way at this stage of the game.”
Central also held a significant edge in athleticism and big-play potential.
Running back Nick Mosley rushed for 193 yards on 22 carries with two touchdown runs to pace the Tigers. It was the second-highest output of his career.
“Watching film, we thought we could handle their three-man front,” Mosley said. “We thought we could kick out the ends and find some holes. Our line just blocked lights out tonight.”
Quarterback Demeatric Crenshaw also worked the middle of the field for 56 yards on keepers.
Central also got a handful of big plays on offense, defense and special teams from Lorenzo Styles Jr., a junior Notre Dame recruit.
“We drove the ball down the field really well tonight,” Sharrett said. “We run the ball well. Our kids really like that brand of football, especially when the line is blocking as well as it was tonight.”
The defense, anchored by Ohio State commitments Ty Hamilton and Dom Marasco, harassed Orange all-district quarterback Spencer Hawkins all night.
“We tried to come up with new ways to confuse him,” Sharrett said. “Most teams didn’t blitz him, but when you face us that’s what you’re getting. We hurried him and made him uncomfortable. He hardly had time to set his feet.”
Central took control literally from the opening play. Hawkins’ first-down pass was tipped at the line by linebacker William Dukes IV, and he raced 32 yards to the end zone for a touchdown.
“I had seen that formation on film and I tried to get my hand up there to bat it down, and somehow I caught it,” Dukes said. “I had never had an interception before, let alone a pick-six. To start the game like that, it was like a miracle.”
Drew Bookman kicked field goals of 22 and 33 yards to make it 13-0. Early in the second quarter, Mosley capped a 62-yard drove with a 3-yard TD.
Late in the half, Styles intercepted Hawkins and returned it 38 yards. Two plays later, Styles took a dump-off pass from Crenshaw and streaked 30 yards to the end zone.
Central led 30-0 at halftime against an Orange defense that allowed 12 points a game. The second half began with a rolling clock as a result of the mercy rule.
In the second half, Mosley and Sirron Smith broke TD runs of 50 and 48 yards.
==========Team 1 2 3 4 Final OLENTANGY ORANGE 0 0 0 0 0 PICKERINGTON CENTRAL
10 20 14 0 44