Pickerington North at Westerville Central: Panthers, Warhawks preparing for OCC opener
As the Pickerington North and Westerville Central football teams prepare to meet for the fifth consecutive season, Central coach Brent Morrison is not sure what to expect after the previous four games were not competitive.
The Panthers won 45-15 in 2016, 42-3 in 2017 and 52-7 in 2018 before the Warhawks won 41-6 last season.
The teams will meet again Friday, Sept. 4, at Central, in an OCC-Ohio Division opener.
"Since I've been the head coach here, we have not had a good game with North," said Morrison, who is in his third season as coach after previously serving as an assistant. "Either they blow us out or we blow them out. I don't know what's going to happen. It always seems that one team catches momentum early and the games get out of hand really fast."
North leads the all-time series 5-2, with the Warhawks' other win coming in 2006 (7-0). The Panthers won 40-30 in 2003 and 20-19 in 2007.
Central opened with a 28-23 win at Upper Arlington on Aug. 28.
Running back Michael Ross led the Warhawks, rushing for 154 yards and three touchdowns on 25 carries. Quarterback Judah Holtzclaw passed for 154 yards and receiver Luke Swaney had five catches for 65 yards.
"You talk about playing two really good football teams back-to-back," North coach Nate Hillerich said. "Westerville Central is big, their offensive line is huge (and) they've got a veteran quarterback. It's going to be a huge challenge for us."
The Panthers lost 35-9 at Pickerington Central on Aug. 30 in a game televised on ESPN2.
"Starting off the year against your rival and the defending state champs and now we go into our league," Hillerich said. "(It was) a tough (loss). (Our defense was) on the field too much. Offensively we couldn't put any drives together. We were sloppy. We put the ball on the ground and turned the ball over."
North managed just 98 total yards while allowing 374.
Senior Jared Knight, a transfer from Grove City, started at quarterback for the Panthers.
"The good thing is we're familiar with their team, they're familiar with us," Morrison said. "Based on the film we have, it doesn't look like schematically much is different between the two teams. I know they're going to be a pass-heavy team, so we're going to try to put pressure on the quarterback and we have to beat their man coverage on offense."
North is playing without senior standout defensive end Jack Sawyer, who has opted to sit out the season and prepare for his freshman season at Ohio State.
"They're still a dangerous team," Morrison said. "They have guys. They have a defensive lineman (Elijah Hawk) who is a scholarship-caliber kid. Even if they don't have Sawyer, we still respect them as an opponent."
Hillerich announced following the opener that Jaylen Gilbert and Marquise Scott have transferred from Centennial, and he hopes they play this week.
Gilbert started seven games at quarterback last season as Centennial went 9-2 and made the playoffs for the first time. Scott was a starting slotback and defensive back.
PICKERINGTON NORTH at WESTERVILLE CENTRAL
*When: 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 4
*Last meeting: 2019, Central 41-6
*North (0-1) to date: Lost to Pickerington Central 35-9
*Central (1-0) to date: Defeated Upper Arlington 28-23
*Top Panthers: D.J. Davenport (OL), Dawaun Green (RB), Elijah Hawk (DL), Cole Johnson (LB), Hayden Kaltenecker (WR), Jared Knight (QB), Idris Lawrence (RB), Devin McShan (DB) and Tyce Neu (OL)
*Top Warhawks: M.J. Davis (WR/DB), Vince Francescone (LB/LS), Zeke Healy (RB/LB), Judah Holtzclaw (QB), Will Jados (OL), Michael Ross (RB), Luke Swaney (WR/DB), Mason Toomey (C) and Braden Weimer (OL/DL)