CANTON — Getting the ball into the hands of one of its biggest playmakers worked to perfection for the Pickerington Central football team against Cincinnati Elder during the Division I state championship game Dec. 6 at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton.
With the game tied at 14 with 3 minutes, 41 seconds left, quarterback Demeatric Crenshaw found Lorenzo Styles Jr. open over the middle on third-and-6 and Styles Jr. sprinted to the end zone for a 49-yard touchdown that lifted the Tigers to a 21-14 victory in front of an announced attendance of 6,690.
Four plays before that score, Central converted on fourth down for the fourth time of the second half when Crenshaw ran for 4 yards on fourth-and-1 from his own 43.
The Tigers captured their second state title in three seasons and finished 14-1, while the Panthers finished 12-3.
“We plowed forward and hit Lorenzo down the middle and that was a first-down pickup,” Central coach Jay Sharrett said. “Lorenzo, with his vision, turned and got that seam and we won the game 21-14. Just an absolute slugfest.”
Elder marched 78 yards on 10 plays to begin the second half, with Joseph Catania running for a 2-yard touchdown to give his team a 14-7 lead. On the possession, six plays went for at least seven yards, including an 18-yard pass from quarterback Matthew Luebbe to Drew Ramsey.
Central began the ensuing possession at its own 27 and moved deep into Elder territory, extending the drive with a 12-yard reception by Justin Canini after Crenshaw eluded several defenders on fourth-and-10.
Then on fourth-and-goal from the 7, Crenshaw hit Tyler Gillison for a touchdown to tie the score at 14. The touchdown capped an 18-play drive that took more than nine minutes off the clock.
“Just making plays and my line held up,” Crenshaw said. “We had to get it or it was going to be a turnover (on the pass to Canini). It’s a championship game and everything matters.”
The Panthers took a 7-0 lead on a 33-yard run by Luebbe with 5:40 left in the first quarter, capping an eight-play, 74-yard drive. He also had a 12-yard keeper and an 8-yard shuffle pass to Evan Vollmer during the possession.
Central moved to the Elder 24 late in the first quarter but were whistled for a false start on fourth-and-7 and a delay of game to force a punt.
The Tigers took advantage of good field possession to set up their first score, a 19-yard run by Nick Mosley with 9:40 left in the second quarter. The drive started at the Elder 47 after a sack by Dawite Melesse forced the Panthers to punt from their own 14.
On its final drive of the first half, Elder drove from its own 19 deep into Central territory. On third-and-4 from the Tigers’ 5 with 30 seconds left, Luebbe’s pass to Joe Royer in the end zone was broken up by A.J. Sanders.
The Panthers’ Sam Harmeyer then pushed a 22-yard field-goal attempt wide left.
“It’s just a lot of hard work, starting from the end of last year, working from December all year long to get to this moment,” Tigers senior linebacker Ty Hamilton said.
==========Team 1 2 3 4 Final PICKERINGTON CENTRAL 0 7 0 14 21 CINCINNATI ELDER
7 0 7 0 14
CE— Luebbe 33 run (Harmeyer kick)
PC—Mosley 19 run (Bookman kick)
CE—Catania 2 run (Harmeyer kick)
PC—Gillison 7 pass from Crenshaw (Bookman kick)
PC—Styles Jr. 49 pass from Crenshaw (Bookman kick)