Pickerington Central Roundup: Garner Wallace settles into role at quarterback

JARROD ULREY
ThisWeekSPORTS.com
Garner Wallace, a Central senior and Northwestern commit, looks for running room during the visiting Tigers' 43-3 win over Groveport on Sept. 18. Wallace succeeded three-year starter Demeatric Crenshaw at quarterback this season.

When the Division I state football poll was released earlier this month, Pickerington Central senior Garner Wallace and some of his teammates took notice.

The Tigers have a new quarterback, as Wallace has succeeded three-year starter Demeatric Crenshaw, but their expectations haven't changed.

That is also true for Wallace, even though he's shifted from being a starter in the secondary, one of the team's top wide receivers and the backup quarterback for a program that has won two of the last three state titles.

"Coach (Jay) Sharrett was saying at the beginning of the season that we know we lost a few key parts but if we can have a good attitude, a lot of our guys really love football and have been playing together since (learning the sport in the Pickerington Youth Athletic Association)," Wallace said. "A bunch of articles before the season didn't know who was going to be at quarterback and that it was going to be hard to replace Demeatric, so it's time to show what I've got."

Central has outscored its first four opponents by a combined 174-12, including beating Groveport 43-3 on Sept. 18 to improve to 4-0 overall and 3-0 in the OCC-Buckeye Division.

The next matchup for the Tigers -- who are first in the latest state rankings ahead of No. 2 Dublin Coffman -- is Friday, Sept. 25, at home against Lancaster.

For Wallace, taking advantage of the opportunity to grow into his new role has been crucial.

He completed all six of his pass attempts for 91 yards, including a 40-yard touchdown to senior wide receiver Gavin Edwards, in a 47-0 win Sept. 11 over Central Crossing.

A Northwestern commit on defense, Wallace has made the transition to starting quarterback while supported on offense by senior running back Nick Mosley and senior wide receiver Lorenzo Styles Jr.

Mosley has committed to Bowling Green and Styles, who also plays defensive back, is headed to Notre Dame.

Mosley has rushed for 11 touchdowns, with junior Olando Kamara and sophomore Dylan Bryan also becoming key running backs for the first time.

Wallace threw for 110 yards and one touchdown and rushed for 79 yards against Groveport, while Mosley had 119 yards rushing and four scores as Central handed the Cruisers their first loss.

"Garner has taken his athletic ability, combined with his improved quarterback decision-making and sharpened our offensive scheme to be very effective the first (four) weeks," Sharrett said.

During the 2019 track and field season, Wallace ran on both the 1,600-meter and 3,200 relays that won Division I state championships and was fourth in the 1,600 as the Tigers captured their second consecutive team title. The 2020 spring sports season was canceled because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

Last winter, Wallace averaged 13.5 points and was first-team all-league and third-team all-district as the boys basketball team reached a district semifinal and finished 18-7.

He was the Tigers' second-leading receiver with 20 catches for 220 yards last fall while earning second-team all-league and honorable mention all-district honors.

"We've been getting better every single game," Wallace said. "Against Central Crossing we were clicking pretty much the whole game. We didn't really have to pass it at all because we've just been killing it up front. Our defense has been getting the ball into the red zone half the time, so that hasn't hurt us."

Wallace, who is 6-foot-4 and 190 pounds, plans on participating in basketball and track later in the school year. He projects as a free safety in college but is content to focus on his new role this fall.

"The biggest thing for me is that I didn't play a ton (at quarterback) my sophomore year and I didn't play much quarterback last year," Wallace said. "Picking up on reads faster is just the toughest part of the game and as the game progresses, I'm picking up on reads faster. Last year was my first year playing safety for the first time since sixth grade, so that's how it was for safety, too."

Girls tennis team enjoys strong season

The girls tennis team's lineup largely has been stable throughout a successful season that has produced another league championship, all characteristics of the Tigers under longtime coach Kelli Rings.

This year, Rings has a reason beyond habit for keeping things as they are.

"It's working and I don't like changing what isn't broken," Rings said. "Everybody knows their role. In a way, they've exceeded my expectations. They've bought in but they're still not satisfied. They're not passive. They see their goals and they're going for them.

"Once we get toward the postseason I might juggle some things, but those would probably be the only changes."

With Semmie Moore, Khandice Thomas and Alexis Heren at first, second and third singles, respectively, Central was 12-2 overall before playing Bexley on Sept. 23.

The Tigers finished a 5-0 season in the OCC-Buckeye with a 5-0 win at Newark on Sept. 8, giving them their first league championship since 2017 and 10th in 13 seasons.

Ella Culver and Sydney Vernadakis have played first doubles, ahead of Robyn Beaty and Issysis Hill at second doubles.

Central, which did not drop a court in OCC-Buckeye play, advanced in the Ohio Tennis Coaches Association Division I district tournament with a 3-2 win at Dublin Jerome on Sept. 14. The Tigers will play host to Hilliard Bradley in a district quarterfinal Monday, Sept. 28.

"We've had some big wins but Jerome was definitely the biggest," Rings said. "(League rival) Reynoldsburg has a good team and we beat North 5-0, which is always a fun win for us to get. New Albany (a 3-2 loss Aug. 18) was disappointing but we had some hard-fought matches. If the girls are stepping up to the plate, there's not a lot more I can ask for."

--Dave Purpura

Boys golf team coming up aces

Even with its entire lineup back, the boys golf team took nothing for granted as it pursued a program first, one it ultimately achieved in winning a second consecutive league championship.

Powered by a balanced lineup, Central went 20-0 in the OCC-Buckeye to finish four matches ahead of second-place Reynoldsburg (16-4). Blake Bennett's 75.25 average in the four-round league tournament paced the Tigers, ahead of Jaden Thompson (76.5), Cole Crandall (77.75), Aidan Allen (79.67) and Carter Woodward (86.25).

Central finished with a league average of 310.25, 9.5 shots better than last year, when it placed first in the OCC-Ohio. The Tigers' only other league championship came in 2001.

"(Our attitude is) let's just keep this rolling as long as we can. Being able to go undefeated in the league is really special," coach Chris Cores said. "The guys have worked so hard since the end of last season and the scores are showing that. ... Even on days when I feel we're struggling, they're so much better than last year. The guys are super close, always helping each other out during the round and on the range."

--Dave Purpura

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