Gahanna Lincoln at Westerville Central: Lions, Warhawks to meet for first time as OCC rivals
The Gahanna Lincoln and Westerville Central football teams have met the past five seasons in non-league contests.
The teams will meet again Friday, Sept. 18, at Central with a little extra incentive, as both are now members of the realigned OCC-Ohio Division.
Gahanna and Pickerington North are tied for first at 2-0, with Central and New Albany both 1-1.
“Gahanna is a lot like us, where the first couple of weeks we’ve been trying to find out our identity and figure out exactly who we are,” Central coach Brent Morrison said. “As I watch their film, just like ours, both of us are getting better as the season goes on, so it should be a great matchup of teams that are starting to find their strides.”
Gahanna leads the series 4-2, including winning the first meeting 38-21 in the opening round of the Division I, Region 3 playoffs in 2011. The Warhawks defeated the Lions 37-6 last season.
“Our games have been pretty good,” Morrison said. “We’ve played them in the playoffs before. We’ve gone to overtime with them before, so we always expect a great game when we play.”
Both teams are coming off victories in Week 3. Gahanna defeated New Albany 42-41 in overtime Sept. 11, while Central rebounded from a 34-20 loss to North on Sept. 4 to defeat Grove City 34-0 on Sept. 11.
Against New Albany, running back Ronald Blackman rushed for 182 yards and four touchdowns, including the go-ahead score in overtime.
The Lions’ offense is directed by quarterback Trey Burger.
“Offensively, there are some slight differences, but it’s still a spread attack,” Morrison said. “They threw the ball very well (against New Albany), so that’s definitely something that we’re going to have to give a lot of attention to.”
Judah Holtzclaw completed 13 of 21 passes for 187 yards and two touchdowns to help Central defeat Grove City. For the season, he has completed 52 of 86 passes for 505 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions.
"It doesn't get any easier,” Gahanna coach Bruce Ward said. “(Holtzclaw) is like ‘Big Ben’ (Roethlisberger). He’s big, he’s strong, he knows where to go with the ball. We’ve got to put some pressure on him. He doesn't like to move a lot out of the pocket, so we’ve got to put some pressure on him.”
Luke Swaney had six catches for 105 yards and two scores and Michael Ross rushed for 98 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries, as Central had a 365-105 advantage in total yards.
“Our goal is to just keep getting better and better and we’ve seen that every week so far,” Morrison said. “We just have to make sure that when the playoffs start that Week 7, we have to be in playoffs form.
“Even though we have the short season, the short preseason, not being in the weight room, not allowed to have meeting time with our kids, we just have to overcome all these obstacles and be ready to go.”
GAHANNA LINCOLN at WESTERVILLE CENTRAL
•When: 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 18
•Last meeting: 2019, Central 37-6
•Gahanna (2-1 overall, 2-0 in OCC-Ohio) to date: Lost to Reynoldsburg 48-14; defeated Westland 49-7; def. New Albany 42-41 (OT)
•Central (2-1 overall, 1-1 in OCC-Ohio) to date: Def. Upper Arlington 28-23; lost to Pickerington North 34-20; def. Grove City 34-0
•Top Lions: Ricky Alli (RB/LB), Tommy Bailey (OL/DL), Kane Baker (WR/DB), Trey Burger (QB), Ronald Blackman (RB/DB), Mondra Curry (RB/LB), Mykohl Martin (OL/DL), Brendan Raymond (WR/DB) and Jaden Yates (RB/LB)
•Top Warhawks: M.J. Davis (WR/DB), Vince Francescone (LB/LS), Zeke Healy (RB/LB), Judah Holtzclaw (QB), Will Jados (OL), Logan Moore (LB), Michael Ross (RB), Luke Swaney (WR/DB), Mason Toomey (C) and Braden Weimer (OL/DL)