Once it settled in, defending Division I state champion Pickerington Central proved more than ready to handle the spotlight of opening the season in a nationally televised game on ESPN2 against its crosstown rival.
The Tigers fumbled to end the game’s opening drive but scored a pair of first-quarter touchdowns, built enough of a lead early in the fourth quarter that the game was played for nearly six minutes with a running clock and beat visiting Pickerington North 35-9 on Aug. 30 in their only non-league game of the six-week regular season.
Senior running back Nick Mosley and senior Garner Wallace, who was starting his first game at quarterback, did most of the damage. Mosley finished with 20 rushes for 88 yards and three touchdowns, and Wallace rushed for 98 yards and one touchdown on 14 carries.
“Every year we’re just playing for our seniors and our word this year is ‘solid,’ ” Wallace said. “We came out and showed them that we’re pretty solid. It’s kind of weird for a North game with no student section, but it’s huge that we could come in and win a game at home.”
Devin McShan recovered a fumble for North to end Central’s opening drive, but the Panthers punted to end their possession and the Tigers answered with an 11-play, 80-yard drive that was capped by a 3-yard run by Mosley with 5 minutes, 4 seconds left in the first quarter.
A mishandled exchange by North resulted in a fumble recovery by Central’s C.J. Doggette on the next play, giving the ball back to the Tigers. Three plays into the next drive, Wallace ran for a 30-yard touchdown to make it 14-0.
Mosley rushed for a 2-yard touchdown with 8:54 left in the second quarter for a 21-0 lead. That score capped a 13-play drive that also included Wallace rushing for 32 yards on four carries and completing a 12-yard pass to Gavin Edwards.
Wallace was tackled in the end zone by Dejuan Hood and Cole Johnson for a safety with 4:41 left in the second period as North cut it to 21-2.
Central sophomore Alex Styles, who also intercepted a pass late in the second period, blocked a punt and recovered it in the end zone with 1:55 left in the third quarter and Mosley ran for a 5-yard touchdown with 11:14 remaining as Central built a 35-2 lead.
North quarterback Adam Sadler threw a 30-yard touchdown pass to Raquan Williams with 5:31 left.
“We didn’t execute well,” Panthers coach Nate Hillerich said. “We had multiple (chances) on third down to get them off the field and we didn’t. We didn’t tackle well. They just played better and were more physical.”
==========Team 1 2 3 4 Final PICKERINGTON NORTH 0 2 0 7 9 PICKERINGTON CENTRAL
14 7 7 7 35
PC—Mosley 3 run (Vollmer kick)
PC—Wallace 30 run (Vollmer kick)
PC—Mosley 2 run (Vollmer kick)
PN—Safety, Wallace tackled in end zone
PC—A. Styles recovered blocked punt in end zone (Vollmer kick)
PC—Mosley 5 run (Vollmer kick)
PN—Williams 30 pass from Sadler (Pope kick)