Pickerington Central: Role players stepping up for Tigers

Jarrod Ulrey
ThisWeek
Reece Brancifort celebrates after Central recovered a fumble by Westerville Central quarterback Judah Holtzclaw during the Tigers' 38-7 win in the Division I, Region 3 final Oct. 30. The Tigers play Mentor on Friday, Nov. 6, in a state semifinal at New Philadelphia.

A perfect example of taking advantage of a chance happened during the Pickerington Central football team’s 38-7 victory over visiting Westerville Central on Oct. 30 in the Division I, Region 3 championship game.

Despite getting limited carries because the bulk of the attempts have gone to senior running back Nick Mosley and senior quarterback Garner Wallace, senior Sirron Smith produced a game-changing play.

On third-and-4 with 1 minute, 34 seconds left before halftime, Warner was flushed from the pocket under heavy pressure but hit Smith downfield for a 54-yard touchdown that gave the Tigers a 21-7 lead.

“It wasn’t really designed for me, but I kind of made myself open, helped the quarterback out and made a play off of it,” Smith said. “I’ve just got to work hard and get myself a spot. There are so many guys on this team and I’ve got to take my opportunity when I get myself a chance.”

Top-seeded Central improved to 10-0 with the win over the third-seeded Warhawks and captured its fifth consecutive regional title.

The victory also moved the Tigers into a state-semifinal matchup Friday, Nov. 6, against a familiar opponent in Mentor, which they beat for the 2017 state championship and again in a 2019 state semifinal. The winner plays Springfield or Cincinnati St. Xavier on Nov. 13 for the state title.

Mentor beat Medina 49-14 for the Region 1 title and is 9-1.

Central seized on a pair of opportunities in the first half against Westerville Central, with Reece Brancifort forcing a fumble that was recovered by Dakari Frazier on the game’s third play to set up a touchdown and Tyler Gillison recovering a fumble after a bad snap to set up the Tigers’ second score.

Mosley had 23 carries for 90 yards and Wallace rushed for 131 yards and three touchdowns on nine carries, including an 86-yard romp late in the third quarter that gave the Tigers a 31-7 lead.

Wallace completed only three passes, but one was Smith’s touchdown.

“We were running a sprint-out pass and they took the first option away (on Smith’s touchdown reception),” coach Jay Sharrett said. “Garner’s done a great job at different times during the season just extending the play. He always keeps his vision and Sirron leaked behind him and that was a pretty good pass. We needed that little shot in the arm because they had stalled us out offensively and defensively.”

Another unit that has faced a different kind of pressure has been Central’s offensive line.

Junior guard Kobi Asamoah has been unavailable the past two weeks but could return for the Mentor game, which will be played at New Philadelphia.

The Tigers also lost junior offensive lineman Kyle Imboden to a season-ending injury earlier in the season.

Both Asamoah and Imboden are listed at 6-foot-4, 300 pounds.

“A lot of people criticize (our line) for being undersized, but they play with a lot of heart and want to see me do well,” Mosley said. “We’ve got a lot of experience, working together since sophomore year and we already knew what was going to happen.”

According to Sharrett, junior Cameron Griffith and sophomore Brock Egan — both of whom are shorter than 6-0 — have taken on bigger roles on a line that is led by senior center Donovan Sanchez as well as seniors Keaton Snyder and Garrett Meek. Snyder and Meek see time in multiple spots based on formation.

“We rotate in six or seven guys,” Sharrett said. “As a team offensively, we came into the season knowing our offensive line was pretty stout, but we had two quick injuries and (Griffith) is coming back from a broken leg from two-a-days. This team has persevered and found a way.”

julrey@thisweeknews.com

@UlreyThisWeek