CANTON — As it did in 2017 when it beat Mentor for the Division I state championship, the Pickerington Central football team turned to quarterback Demeatric Crenshaw for some of its biggest plays in the teams’ rematch in a state semifinal Nov. 29 at Canton GlenOak.

Crenshaw ran 9 yards for what proved to be the game-winning touchdown with 1 minute, 2 seconds remaining in the third quarter and the Tigers’ defense made the lead stand for a 28-21 victory.

Central, which beat Mentor 56-28 in the state final two years ago when Crenshaw rushed for six touchdowns, improved to 13-1 and advanced to play Cincinnati Elder in the state championship game Dec. 6 at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton.

Mentor finished 13-1.

“It was just us staying into it,” Crenshaw said. “Their defense was more physical than we thought, so we just kept staying into it and putting points on the board.”

After the Tigers built a 21-14 halftime lead, Mentor attempted to set the tone for the second half when it began the third quarter by recovering an onside kick. On the next play, Cardinals quarterback Ian Kipp hit Luke Floriea for a 49-yard touchdown pass to tie the score at 21.

An interception by Dom Marasco gave the Tigers the ball at the Mentor 38 with 4:45 left in the third quarter and Central marched nine plays for the winning touchdown.

Mentor had the ball at the Tigers’ 48 with 5:13 left, but Kipp suffered an injury and didn’t return until the game’s final series. He was sacked twice before throwing an incomplete pass on the Cardinals’ final play from scrimmage.

“We didn’t plan on them scoring 15 seconds (after recovering an onside kick), but credit to our kids,” Tigers coach Jay Sharrett said. “They got a long drive touchdown when they needed it. We’re going back to the state finals and I’m happy for these guys.”

Mentor drove 84 yards on seven plays and took a 7-0 lead with 9:19 left in the opening quarter on a 29-yard pass from Kipp to Floriea.

The Tigers answered with a six-play, 65-yard drive capped by a 48-yard touchdown run by Lorenzo Styles with 6:54 remaining in the opening quarter. The possession was extended when Mentor was whistled for offsides on fourth-and-1 from the Central 44 as the Tigers lined up to punt.

Crenshaw ran for a 3-yard touchdown with 10:41 left in the second quarter to give Central a 14-7 lead, but Mentor responded with a 15-play, 80-yard drive capped by a 1-yard touchdown run by Riley Coughlin with 6:46 remaining before halftime. Mentor’s Brian Trobel extended the drive by running for 11 yards on fourth-and-8 from the Central 37.

Central made it 21-14 with 1:46 left in the second quarter on a 4-yard touchdown run by Nick Mosley, who ran for 14 yards three plays prior to set up the score.

The Cardinals drove to the Central 23 on the final possession of the first half but missed a 40-yard field-goal attempt.

julrey@thisweeknews.com

@UlreyThisWeek

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Team 1 2 3 4 Final PICKERINGTON CENTRAL 7  14   7   0   28  MENTOR
 7   7  7  0  21

M—Floriea 29 pass from Kipp (Smith kick)

PC—Styles 48 run (Bookman kick)

PC—Crenshaw 3 run (Bookman kick)

M—Coughlin 1 run (Smith kick)

PC—Mosley 4 run (Bookman kick)

M—Floriea 49 pass from Kipp (Smith kick)

PC—Crenshaw 9 run (Bookman kick)