As difficult as it may have been to watch, the Pickerington Central football team studied extensive film from its only loss this season while preparing for its rematch against Groveport in the Division I, Region 3 final Nov. 22 at DeSales.
The second-seeded Tigers proved up to the challenge with a 23-7 victory over the fourth-seeded Cruisers, improving to 12-1 and avenging their 19-14 loss to Groveport on Sept. 20.
Central might want to check out some footage from two years ago as it prepares for its next opponent.
The Tigers will play Mentor in a state semifinal Friday, Nov. 29, at Canton GlenOak.
The teams last met in the 2017 state championship game, with Central winning 56-28 to capture its first state title. Quarterback Demeatric Crenshaw led the way for the Tigers, passing for 104 yards and rushing for 161 yards and a state-championship record six touchdowns on 24 carries.
Central is making its eighth state appearance, including its fourth in a row. The Tigers lost in state semifinals in 2016 and last season, falling to Cincinnati Colerain 28-14 a year ago.
The semifinal winner plays Springfield or Cincinnati Elder in the final Dec. 5, 6 or 7 at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton.
“(The regional title) means more being the big dog on the team, a senior and just the group of guys I grew up with,” Crenshaw said. “It means a lot more. We’re not done. One game at a time. … We’re going to give it our all. We’re going to play.”
Mentor is 13-0 and was ranked first in the final state poll and 13th in the nation, according to MaxPreps.com.
This is the final postseason for Cardinals coach Steve Trivisonno, who announced several months ago that he would be stepping down at season’s end.
Under Trivisonno, Mentor has been state runner-up four times, including in 2006, ‘07 and ‘13. The Cardinals, who are seeking their first state championship, are 208-69 with 16 playoff appearances in his 23 seasons.
“This means everything,” Tigers junior running back Nick Mosley said of winning the regional title. “We try to do it for the players who played before us.”
Central had little trouble once it got going against Groveport.
Mosley rushed for a pair of 1-yard touchdowns and Crenshaw added a 14-yard scoring run in the second quarter as the Tigers built a 23-0 halftime lead. Crenshaw finished with 109 yards on 16 carries.
Central didn’t allow a first-half first down to Groveport, which was making its first appearance in a regional final and finished 10-3.
“This was revenge,” Mosley said. “We knew we lost to them earlier in the year and it was big for us to come back and beat them like we did. We knew what we had to do. We knew to take control early and that we could pretty much control the rest of the game.”
Mentor was the top seed in Region 1 and edged second-seeded Lakewood St. Edward 36-35 in overtime in its regional final Nov. 22 at Byers Field in Parma.
The Cardinals trailed 14-0 before junior quarterback Ian Kipp connected with senior wide receiver and Kent State-commit Luke Floriea for a 57-yard touchdown midway through the second quarter. Mentor nearly fell behind by three touchdowns but forced a fumble at its 1-yard line on the previous drive.
Kipp passed for 263 yards and three touchdowns, including a 19-yard touchdown pass to senior running back Brian Trobel with 1 minute, 55 seconds left.
Kipp scored on a 1-yard keeper on fourth-and-goal in overtime to pull the Cardinals to within 35-34 and then hit Floriea for the game-winning two-point conversion pass.
Floriea had seven catches for 205 yards and two touchdowns in the game and has 52 receptions for 939 yards and 16 scores on the season.
Kipp has passed for more than 2,200 yards and Trobel has rushed for more than 1,500 yards.
“I couldn’t be happier (that) we’re in the state again,” Tigers coach Jay Sharrett said.