Friday Night Live: Westerville Central, Westerville South fall in playoffs

Frank DiRenna
ThisWeek group
Central's Zeke Healy, left, and C.J. Spinosi console each other after the Warhawks' 38-7 loss at Pickerington Central in the Division I, Region 3 final Oct. 30.
Brandon Armstrong and South lost at Massillon Washington 45-36 in a Division II, Region 7 semifinal Oct. 30.

Moments after their teams’ playoff losses Oct. 30, Westerville Central football coach Brent Morrison and South coach Matthew Christ reflected on their seasons and stressed to their underclassmen the importance of the task ahead.

For the Warhawks and Wildcats, the shared goal for 2021 will be maintaining their high standards.

Third-seeded Central lost at top-seeded Pickerington Central 38-7 in the Division I, Region 3 final to finish 7-2, while third-seeded South lost at second-seeded Massillon Washington 45-36 in a Division II, Region 7 semifinal to finish 7-1.

With 32 seniors in the program, Morrison knows his underclassmen will play vital roles next season.

“We’ve known all season that this was a special class, so we’ve talked about this senior class with the younger kids for the entire season,” he said. “We’ve said look at the way they do things because you have an opportunity to learn from a phenomenal group of kids while they’re still here. We don’t want to wait until next year and then be talking about it.”

Christ also believes his underclassmen are prepared to handle their next challenge.

“We have a great nucleus coming back,” he said. “From a cultural standpoint, we’re in a phenomenal place. I find it hard to believe that anybody is going to be very complacent. We certainly have some big holes that we’re going to have to fill from graduation. That’s what good programs do. They find guys who are ready to step up, emerge and continue to compete at an elite level.”

The Warhawks and Tigers were tied at 7 late in the first half before Pickerington Central pulled away.

Westerville Central committed two costly turnovers and was outgained 391-157. Michael Ross rushed for 97 yards on 17 carries to the lead the Warhawks.

“Our big message to the kids is just how proud we are of them and what a great season we had, and don’t let this final game be the thing that defines our season,” Morrison said. “Instead, look at it as a whole and really appreciate what they’ve done for our program.”

Pickerington Central plays Mentor in a state semifinal Friday, Nov. 6. The Tigers are seeking their second consecutive state title and third in four seasons.

South led Massillon 9-7 in the second quarter before the Tigers turned the tables on the Wildcats and opened a 42-9 lead. The Wildcats outscored Massillon 27-3 in the fourth quarter to make the final score closer.

Peter Pedrozo passed for 337 yards and two touchdowns and added a touchdown reception in his final game for South. Kaden Saunders had nine catches for 169 yards and two touchdowns.

South outgained Massillon 502-454. 

Massillon, which lost the last two state title games, will face top-seeded Massillon Perry in a regional final Nov. 6.

It was a successful year for all three Westerville programs, as Central, South and North finished with winning records for the first time in the same season. It's the Warriors’ first winning season since 2004, when they finished 6-4.

North finished 6-4 with a 10-0 loss to Grove City in a regular-season game Oct. 30. The Warriors lost to New Albany 34-3 in the opening round of the Region 3 playoffs Oct. 9.

“It’s fun when all three of our programs have good years,” Morrison said. “The difference is I would have loved to play them just because then you have a measurement of how good you are and it brings a little something extra to the rivalry when all three teams have great records. It’s unfortunate that we didn’t get to that this year.”

South defeated North 32-28 on Sept. 11 in an OCC-Capital Division game, while Central did not play South or North.

fdirenna@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekFrank