Westerville Central at Pickerington Central: Warhawks, Tigers to battle for regional title

Frank DiRenna
ThisWeek group
Running back Nick Mosley and Pickerington Central are preparing to face Westerville Central on Friday, Oct. 30, in the Division I, Region 3 final.
Westerville Central’s Michael Ross carries the ball in a 50-7 win over New Albany on Oct. 23.

Pickerington Central has faced a variety of area opponents during its postseason runs through the years, but the Tigers will face a new challenge when they play host to third-seeded Westerville Central in the Division I, Region 3 final Friday, Oct. 30.

The teams have not met since 2005 when the Warhawks were in just their third season, with the Tigers winning 14-0 that year and 34-10 in 2004.

“We haven’t played Westerville Central for 15 years,” Pickerington Central coach Jay Sharrett said. “This will be a good matchup for central Ohio, and a good matchup for Pickerington Central and Westerville Central. Both teams deserve to be there. They’re playing at a really high level right now and hopefully we can match what they do and sort it out Friday night.”

Top-seeded Pickerington Central advanced to the final with a 34-7 win over 13th-seeded Hilliard Bradley, while the Warhawks moved on with a 50-7 victory over 10th-seeded New Albany.

The winner advances to a state semifinal Nov. 6.

“This is exactly what a regional final should be,” Westerville Central coach Brent Morrison said. “It’s going to be two great teams with some big-name players. (It's) very evenly matched.”

Westerville Central is seeking its first state semifinal berth, and it is the furthest the Warhawks have advanced since 2014 when they lost 41-0 to Lakewood St. Edward in a Division I, Region 1 semifinal.

“It’s been a (few) years since we’ve played this deep in the playoffs, but luckily it was recent enough that our kids remember it,” Morrison said. “Some of them had older siblings and cousins on the team and were a part of it. It’s not completely foreign to us.”

The Tigers are in a regional final for the fifth consecutive season and are looking to reach their fifth state title game after winning championships in 2017 and last year. 

It also is the 15th consecutive postseason appearance for Pickerington Central, which improved to 9-0 with the win over Bradley.

The Tigers’ Nick Mosley rushed for 151 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries, and Lorenzo Styles Jr. ran for 99 yards and one touchdown on five carries and added a touchdown reception.

“Jay Sharrett has been the head coach since when I used to play against Pick Central at Reynoldsburg,” Morrison said. “It’s hard-nosed football with a lot of really talented players. …The big thing is we just have to focus on our game plan and we have to treat this like any other game and any other opponent, and walk in there with confidence and be ready to trade punches.”

Westerville Central, which is 7-1, scored 35 points in a span of just over six minutes during the second quarter in beating New Albany for the second time this season. The Warhawks also beat the Eagles 42-7 on Oct. 2 in an OCC-Ohio Division game.

Quarterback Judah Holtzclaw was 8-for-12 passing for 120 yards with two touchdowns — both to Luke Swaney — and ran for 62 yards and two scores on three carries in the rematch with the Eagles.

Michael Ross ran for 76 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries.

“They’re well-coached,” Sharrett said. “You can’t trick them on a reverse. You can’t trick them on a trick play. You have to go out there and play solid. You have to be able to tackle in the open field. If you can’t tackle in the open field, you’re going to have a tough night, so hopefully we can find a way to get that done on Friday.”

fdirenna@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekFrank

WESTERVILLE CENTRAL at PICKERINGTON CENTRAL

•When: 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 30

•Last meeting: 2005, Pickerington Central 34-10

•Westerville Central (7-1) to date: Defeated Upper Arlington 28-23; lost to Pickerington North 34-20; def. Grove City 34-0; def. Gahanna 43-0; def. Westland 56-7; def. New Albany 42-7; def. UA 21-20; def. New Albany 50-7

•Pickerington Central (9-0) to date: Def. North 35-9; def. Newark 49-0; def. Central Crossing 47-0; def. Groveport 43-3; def. Lancaster 35-0; def. Reynoldsburg 38-13; def. Grove City 49-0; def. Hilliard Darby 35-16; def. Hilliard Bradley 34-10

•Top Warhawks: Kyle Denney (WR/DB), Vince Francescone (LB/LS), Zeke Healy (RB/LB), Judah Holtzclaw (QB), Will Jados (OL), Braeden Murray (DL), Michael Ross (RB), Gary Steele (WR/DB), Luke Swaney (WR/DB) and Mason Toomey (C) 

•Top Tigers: C.J. Doggette (DL), William Dukes IV (LB), Tyler Gillison (TE/LB), Nick Mosley (RB), A.J. Sanders (DB), Sirron Smith (RB/DB), Keaton Snyder (OL), Lorenzo Styles Jr. (WR/DB) and Garner Wallace (QB)