SPRINGFIELD — Defending state champion Pickerington Central scored a decisive 33-7 victory Friday over Northmont at Evans Stadium in Springfield on a windy, chilly night.
The only thing colder than the temperature was Northmont’s offense, which never got itself in sync in the lopsided loss.
The Thunderbolts took a 7-0 lead after a short punt gave Northmont the ball at its own 49 yard line. Michael Franklin carried the ball for six yards on first down and Miles Johnson kept the ball for a first down at the Central 36. On third down and 11 Johnson passed to Jazz Keys for a first down at the 13.
Johnson kept the ball on the next play for a gain and a face mask penalty against Central gave the Thunderbolts a first and goal at the four yard line. Two plays later Johnson kept the ball and ran for a five yard touchdown. Brandon Goodwin’s point after gave the Thunderbolts a 7-0 lead, but unfortunately that was all the points Northmont would generate on the wind swept Evans Stadium field.
The Thunderbolts forced Central to punt on the Tigers’ next possession but a Central player managed to down the ball at the Northmont one yard line. On the first play the Tigers’ defense clawed into the backfield to trap Franklin in the end zone for a safety to make it 7-2.
After a free kick the Tigers took over at their own 45. Thirteen plays later junior quarterback Demeatric Crenshaw (6-feet, 2-inches, 195 pounds) kept the ball and scored the go-ahead touchdown with 5:57 left in the first half to make it 9-7.
Central increased its lead to 16-7 when corner back Terry Simuel picked off a tipped pass and returned it 33 yards for a touchdown with 4:35 left in the half. Central lined up for a 46 yard field goal late in the half but a bad snap squelched the threat and the half ended with Tigers holding a nine point lead.
Things went downhill quickly in the second half for Northmont. Danny Lewis fumbled the second half kickoff and recovered the ball at the four yard line. Jestin Jacobs ran for gains of seven and five yards for a first down at the 16. Two plays later defensive tackle DeWayne Carter intercepted a Johnson pass and ran it in for a touchdown to boost Central’s lead to 23-7 with 10:50 left in the third quarter.
On Northmont’s next possession Carter batted a Johnson pass down at the line on third down to force a punt. Kicking into the wind the ball rolled dead at the Northmont 44. The Tigers drove to the Thunderbolts’ 16 and from there added a 33 yard field goal to take a 26-7 lead.
The final nail in the coffin came in the fourth quarter. Facing a third down and 14 at the Central’s 49 yard line defensive back Jaquwan Crawford intercepted a Johnson pass and returned it 64 yards for a touchdown with 8:44 left to make it 33-7.
Northmont couldn’t generate anything offensively down the stretch and the game ended with the Tigers kneeling down to kill the clock inside the Thunderbolts’ 20 yard line.
Offensive miscues directly led to 23 Pickerington Central points.
“Any time you have turnovers like that in a championship game you are going to come out on the wrong end of it,” said Northmont Coach Tony Broering. “You cannot turn the ball over in week 12… you just can’t turn it over at all. We turned it over a lot. I give Pick Central all the credit in the world. They are the defending champs and they are probably going to be the champs this year. They are very talented and very good on defense. Their offense isn’t that explosive or special, they just pound you.”
Despite Central’s success Broering was proud of his defense.
“Our defense did a great job holding up against that, but they had so many short fields and so may opportunities that it just kind of wore us down,” he added. “You just can’t turn the ball over like that against the defending state champions. They have a lot of good players and I give all of the credit to Jay Sharret and his staff. They did a nice job on defense. They had a great game plan and put their best defensive back on Jazz Keys and kind of took him out of the game. I don’t know who Is going to beat them because they are really good.”
It was an ugly game that got even uglier at the end with both teams forced to leave the field late in the fourth quarter when a fight nearly broke out in front of the Central sideline.