Friday Night Live: Pickerington Central, Westerville Central prepare for marquee Division I matchup

Jarrod Ulrey
ThisWeek group
Pickerington Central's C.J. Doggette (right) celebrates a fourth-down stop with Tyler Gillison during a 34-7 win over Hilliard Bradley on Oct. 23. The Tigers play host to Westerville Central on Friday, Oct. 30, in the Division I, Region 3 final.

An abbreviated football regular season was followed in the playoffs by four first-round and two quarterfinal upsets in Division I, Region 3.

However, the area teams left standing in the big-school division as the postseason heads into its fourth week are far from surprising.

Defending state champion Pickerington Central has been in control by halftime of nearly every game it has played and hasn’t been seriously challenged all season as it enters its fifth consecutive Region 3 championship game.

Olentangy Liberty won three consecutive Region 2 titles from 2016-18, reached a Region 3 semifinal last season and is back in the Region 2 final after avenging its only regular-season loss.

The other team looking for a state-semifinal berth is Westerville Central, which lost in first-round playoff games the past two seasons but has more than lived up to the heightened expectations brought about by having a strong senior class.

“Winning a regional final has never been done here,” Warhawks quarterback Judah Holtzclaw said. “We obviously want to do that. We have bigger goals than just a regional final, so this is just one next step in the process to winning state.”

Third-seeded Westerville Central is 7-1 going into its matchup Friday, Oct. 30, at top-seeded Pickerington Central after beating 10th-seeded New Albany 50-7 in a regional semifinal Oct. 23.

Holtzclaw completed eight of 12 passes for 120 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 62 yards and three scores.

The Warhawks are making their seventh postseason appearance in 10 seasons, but the only times they’ve faced Pickerington Central were in regular-season games in 2004 and ’05.

Needless to say, it will be a challenge unlike any Westerville Central has faced.

Pickerington Central is 9-0 and coming off a 34-7 victory over 13th-seeded Hilliard Bradley on Oct. 23.

Senior running back Nick Mosley rushed for 151 yards and two touchdowns and senior Lorenzo Styles Jr., who sees time at running back and wide receiver, scored a pair of touchdowns. Styles’ full skill set was on display in a 35-16 victory over ninth-seeded Hilliard Darby in a quarterfinal Oct. 16 when he returned both a punt and a kickoff for touchdowns.

“At the end of the day we get to advance and play for the regional championship,” Tigers coach Jay Sharrett said.

Westerville Central’s Luke Swaney beats New Albany’s Owen Wilcox for a touchdown reception during a 50-7 win Oct. 23. The Warhawks visit Pickerington Central on Friday, Oct. 30, for the Division I, Region 3 championship game.

Liberty lost to Dublin Coffman 24-17 on Sept. 4 but avenged that defeat with an 18-15 win over the top-seeded Shamrocks on Oct. 24 in a regional semifinal.

The fourth-seeded Patriots must travel for the second consecutive week, this time to third-seeded Springfield for the Region 2 final Friday, Oct. 30.

The Wildcats were scheduled to visit second-seeded Clayton Northmont on Oct. 23 in a rematch of their only loss, a 38-35 overtime defeat Sept. 18, but the Thunderbolts were forced to cancel the game because one of their players tested positive for the COVID-19 coronavirus.

Springfield, which is 7-1 and beat Coffman 7-3 in last year’s regional title game before losing in a state semifinal, features senior Te’Sean Smoot at quarterback. He has offers from several Mid-American Conference programs and has thrown for 1,725 yards and 21 touchdowns while rushing for 473 yards and eight scores.

In Liberty’s win over the Shamrocks, senior quarterback Mitch Fields completed 28 of 35 passes for 278 yards and two touchdowns. He has thrown for 16 touchdowns on the season and is complemented by senior running back Aidan Kenley, who has rushed for 1,017 yards and 17 touchdowns.

•In Division II, Region 7, both third-seeded Westerville South and fourth-seeded Olentangy will make trips to Massillon for semifinal matchups Friday, Oct. 30.

The Wildcats beat 11th-seeded Olentangy Berlin 56-29 on Oct. 24 to improve to 7-0 and will play at second-seeded Massillon Washington, which beat seventh-seeded North Canton Hoover 48-23 in a semifinal Oct. 23 and is 7-1.

While the Tigers lost in the state title game last season, South has taken a big step forward after going 6-5 last fall. Quarterback Peter Pedrozo has thrown for 28 touchdowns with just three interceptions to lead the way.

Olentangy is 6-2 after beating 12th-seeded Worthington Kilbourne 35-13 on Oct. 24 in a quarterfinal and will visit top-seeded Massillon Perry, which is 8-0 after beating eighth-seeded Dublin Scioto 35-10 on Oct. 23.

The big standout for the Braves in its quarterfinal win was wide receiver Jace Middleton, who had five catches for 138 yards and two touchdowns.

The winners of those two games will play for the regional title Nov. 6.

•The seeds have played out as expected in Division III, Region 11, with top-seeded DeSales to play host to fourth-seeded Jonathan Alder and second-seeded Hartley playing host to third-seeded Thornville Sheridan on Friday, Oct. 30, in regional semifinals.

The Stallions hadn’t completed a game in 22 days before they finished a 56-35 victory over eighth-seeded Granville on Oct. 24 after the contest had been suspended in the first quarter the night before because of bad weather. Quintell Quinn rushed for 181 yards and four touchdowns on 26 carries as DeSales improved to 6-1.

Jonathan Alder is 8-0 after beating fifth-seeded London 14-0 in a regional quarterfinal Oct. 24.

Hartley defeated 10th-seeded Dresden Tri-Valley 34-14 on Oct. 23 to improve to 5-3 and move into the matchup against Sheridan, which beat sixth-seeded Watterson 28-20 on Oct. 23 to improve to 8-0.

The winners of those two games will meet for the regional title Nov. 6.

•After making it to a state semifinal in Division VII last season, Harvest Prep has adjusted to its move up to Division V by reaching a Region 19 semifinal.

The fifth-seeded Warriors won 20-17 on Oct. 24 at fourth-seeded Columbus Academy, avenging their only loss and improving to 7-1. Jaylen Jennings rushed for 228 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winning score with 1 minute, 12 seconds to go.

Top-seeded Ironton beat eighth-seeded Johnstown 42-0 on Oct. 24 in a quarterfinal to improve to 8-0.

The Harvest Prep-Ironton winner plays second-seeded West Lafayette Ridgewood or third-seeded Wheelersburg for the regional title Nov. 7.

julrey@thisweeknews.com

@UlreyThisWeek

Playoffs — Week 4

Friday, Oct. 30

Division I, Region 2 final

Olentangy Liberty (4) at Springfield (3)

Division I, Region 3 final

Westerville Central (3) at Pickerington Central (1)

Division II, Region 7 semifinals

Westerville South (3) at Massillon Washington (2); Olentangy (4) at Massillon Perry (1)

Division III, Region 11 semifinals

Jonathan Alder (4) at DeSales (1); Thornville Sheridan (3) at Hartley (2)

Saturday, Oct. 31

Division V, Region 19 semifinal

Harvest Prep (5) at Ironton (1)