The countdown commences with Nos. 21-25.

It's been about eight months since the Pickerington Central football team won its second Division I state championship in three seasons, but it seems much longer ago than that.

Football is the perfect example of what it means to work together to reach a goal, which is something we all need more than ever with everything that's been going on in the world the past few months.

It's also why putting together an "All-Decade Super 25 Team" honoring central Ohio prep players from 2010-19 from Franklin County and parts of Fairfield and Delaware counties feels like such a privilege right now.

I've headed up previous projects recognizing the greatness of central Ohio prep football, including the "All-Time ThisWeek Football Team" in 2013 and the "Football Mount Rushmore" in 2016.

That doesn't necessarily make me more qualified to rank the 25 players that represent the best of central Ohio football from the past 10 years, but it's at least proof that I'm passionate about keeping alive the histories of those players that have inspired us.

As far as the rankings go, numerous hours were spent poring through stats and old clippings from the past 10 years to come up with a list of the top 25.

There were dozens of others who easily could have made the "All-Decade Super 25 Team," but there are simply too many great players that have stepped onto the field the last 10 years for all to be recognized.

The impossible job of ranking players who perform completely different yet equally important tasks also speaks to the nature of football.

Nearly every Heisman Trophy winner, NFL MVP or high school Mr. Football honoree is a quarterback or running back, but this list is also going to include offensive linemen who won't ever make the scoring column.

One more thing: While it's true that certain players blossomed when they got to college or even in professional football, this list is based solely on how they did at the prep level.

And so the countdown commences with Nos. 21-25:

No. 25

Alex Backenstoe

From 2003-13, there wasn't a more consistent program in central Ohio than Hilliard Davidson.

Pickerington Central has since surpassed Davidson as the area's top big-school power, but think about how long the Wildcats owned that distinction.

Davidson produced Division I state titles in 2006 and '09 and reached three other state semifinals during that time.

The ThisWeek preview guide for the 2010 season featured former coach Brian White and four of his assistants on the cover, kneeling with their two state championship trophies, with the headline "The Davidson Way."

That three-word phrase signified a team based on a system, one that was rarely flashy but almost always got the job done.

That's also a perfect way to describe Alex Backenstoe, a 2014 graduate who played what could be considered the program's "glamour" position of Leo linebacker.

As a senior in 2013, he helped Davidson go 13-1, win the OCC-Central title and reach the Region 2 final before losing to Cincinnati Moeller 13-11.

The 6-foot-1, 230-pound Backenstoe recorded 14 sacks and 23 tackles for loss in 14 games and was named Defensive co-Player of the Year in the state as well as district Defensive Player of the Year and league Player of the Year.

As a tight end, he was a lead blocker in Davidson's triple-option offense.

"He's just a hard-working kid that really loves to come and be here and loves his teammates," White said in 2013.

No. 24

Joshua Perry

On July 30, 2018, Perry announced that he was walking away from football.

The 2012 Olentangy graduate and former Ohio State linebacker explained in a message on social media that concerns about concussions -- he had six documented concussions during his playing career -- led to his decision to retire after having played in 17 NFL games over two seasons with the then-San Diego Chargers and Indianapolis Colts.

"The last thing I want to do is put the health of my brain and my future well-being in jeopardy over a game and a paycheck," Perry said.

Such a measured response as a then 24-year-old doesn't come without experience.

Perry received a scholarship offer from Ohio State in June 2010, a few months before his prep career would start to take off, and accepted on the spot to become the first member of the Buckeyes' 2012 recruiting class.

The 6-4, 230-pound Perry joined the Braves' varsity as a sophomore at linebacker and running back. He had 14 tackles for loss and eight sacks as a junior and recorded 65 tackles, six sacks and an interception for a touchdown while also rushing for 1,021 yards and 17 touchdowns on 146 carries as a senior, when he was named first-team all-OCC-Cardinal and all-district and second-team all-state.

Who Perry has tried to be off the field, though, is almost as striking.

The founder and CEO of the Joshua Perry Family Foundation, a non-profit he launched in March 2018, Perry has worked closely with the Autism Speaks Organization and visited Costa Rica in 2015 to help provide aid to the underprivileged.

His younger brother, Jahred, has a mild form of autism.

"When you have someone that close to you who is dealing with different battles every single day, it puts things in perspective," Perry told The Columbus Dispatch in 2014.

No. 23

DaVon Hamilton

The DaVon Hamilton that fans have watched since he became a key player for Ohio State as a redshirt freshman in 2016 and the one that we're likely to see this fall with the Jacksonville Jaguars is different physically from the one who had a spectacular senior season for Pickerington Central in 2014.

A defensive tackle, Hamilton has continued to add muscle to his 6-4 frame and is now 320 pounds after being selected in the third round of this year's NFL draft. He weighed around 285 as a senior for Central when he was named a finalist for the Ohio Mr. Football award.

That season, Hamilton had 28 tackles for loss, including five in a 21-13 loss to Cincinnati Moeller in a Division I, Region 2 semifinal as the Tigers finished 11-1.

"A lot of times when I line up against people, they don't expect me to be as quick as I am," Hamilton said after the loss to Moeller.

Hamilton originally committed to Pittsburgh during the summer before his senior season but switched to Kentucky that December.

When Ohio State came in with a late scholarship offer in January, Hamilton flipped again and went on to help the Buckeyes win two bowl games and make two College Football Playoff appearances.

When combining Hamilton's final two seasons with Central and his four years at Ohio State, his teams went a combined 68-10.

"What makes him stand out, besides being a great football player, he leads the way in the weight room," Tigers coach Jay Sharrett said in 2015.

No. 21 (tie)

Jayshon Jackson and Noah Key

There's a reason why Jackson, a 2011 Westerville South graduate, and Key, a 2011 Hartley graduate, tied for this spot.

This series features player accomplishments from 2010-19, meaning Jackson's two seasons at Central Crossing in 2007 and '08 and his junior season at South in 2009 and Key's first three seasons at Hartley can't be included.

However, what these two running backs did as seniors can't be ignored, and their overall performance that season was basically indistinguishable.

In 2010, Jackson earned ThisWeek Super 25 captain honors after rushing for 2,583 yards and 23 touchdowns on 349 carries as South went 9-3.

Standing just 5-7 but weighing between 180-200 pounds, Jackson rushed for 318 yards and two scores in a 31-21 regular-season win over Dublin Coffman and ran for 310 yards and three touchdowns in a 28-14 victory over the Shamrocks in the first round of the Division I, Region 3 playoffs.

Key, meanwhile, helped set up what has been a golden age for Hartley.

The Hawks have won three state titles in the last 10 years under coach Brad Burchfield, but it took some memorable performances from Key in 2010 for Hartley to win its first state title in 24 years.

The 6-0, 180-pound Key rushed for 239 yards and three touchdowns and scored the game-winning two-point conversion run with 2 minutes, 5 seconds left in a 29-28 victory over Kettering Alter in a Division IV state semifinal.

The Hawks then beat Chagrin Falls 34-13 in the state final for their first championship since 1986, as Key finished the season with 2,885 yards rushing and 42 touchdowns and shared state Offensive Player of the Year honors in Division IV.

julrey@thisweeknews.com

@UlreyThisWeek