PickeringtonSportsRadio.com will be broadcasting live the Semi-State Finals of the OHSAA State Football Playoffs. PSR will carry live the Cincinnati St. Xavier vs. Pickerington Central football game on Saturday, Nov. 26 , 2011 at 7:00 p.m. The pregame show begins at 6:45 p.m.
Play by play voice Chris Solwecki and color analyst Chris Vail will bring you all of the action.
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(Aaron Blankenship/This Week) During a 38-21 loss to Cincinnati St. Xavier on Sept. 4 at Ohio Stadium, the Pickerington High School Central football team struggled to slow the Bombers’ balanced attack while giving up a season-high 353 yards.
Senior lineman Jacoby Boren is expecting the Tigers’ defense to fare better when Central and St. Xavier meet in a Division I state semifinal at 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 26, at Welcome Stadium in Dayton.
“St. Xavier is the most physical team we’ve played and their running game is one of the toughest that we’ve faced this season,” Boren said. “But we’ve changed a lot since the last time we played them and we’re definitely not going to be intimidated by them. In the beginning of the season, we weren’t as much in unison as we are now and we got out to an 0-2 start. But we’ve kept improving ever since then and we’re a completely different team now.”
The winner advances to the state championship game against Cleveland St. Ignatius or Toledo Whitmer at 7 p.m. Dec. 3 at Fawcett Stadium in Canton.
The Tigers beat Hilliard Davidson 24-0 in the Region 3 final Nov. 19 at Ohio Wesleyan to win their 10th consecutive game and improve to 10-2. This will be the third Division I state semifinal for Central, which lost to Cincinnati Elder 24-10 in 2008 and St. Ignatius 48-8 in 1999. The Tigers reached the Division II state final in 2006 and lost to Piqua 26-7.
The Bombers defeated Cincinnati Moeller 35-21 in the Region 4 final Nov. 19 to improve to 10-3.
St. Xavier is averaging 156.9 rushing yards and 109.7 passing yards per game.
Senior quarterback Griffin Dolle is 119-for-218 passing for 1,364 yards with 11 touchdowns and nine interceptions.
Dolle spreads the ball to a slew of receivers, including senior Trey Kilgore (37 catches, 338 yards, three touchdowns), junior Kevin Milligan (35 catches, 382 yards, three scores) and sophomore Ryan Frey (24 catches, 249 yards, one touchdown).
Senior tailback Conor Hundley has rushed for 1,085 yards and 19 touchdowns on 209 carries.
Hundley rushed for 156 yards and four touchdowns on 24 carries in the first meeting with Central, while Dolle was 12-for-22 passing for 190 yards, including a 60-yard touchdown to senior receiver Evan Ballinger.
“They run and pass very effectively, and they’re huge on the line,” Central coach Jay Sharrett said. “We need to stack up their running game so they don’t get into second-and-short situations, because that’s when they are really effective at throwing the ball downfield.”
Boren said the Tigers will change their defensive front nearly every play, much like they did while holding Davidson to 101 yards rushing on 34 carries and 109 total yards.
Central forced four turnovers in the first meeting with St. Xavier. Linebackers Greg Basalyga and Jake Kincaid and cornerback Marcus Milton have accounted for three turnovers apiece this season.
“(Defensive coordinator Jeff) Lomonico always does a great job of changing things up in games to keep offenses on their heels,” Boren said.
Central committed a season-high five turnovers in the first matchup with St. Xavier, which has forced 28 turnovers in 13 games, with senior linebacker Nathan Gerbus (two interceptions, two fumble recoveries), senior cornerback Jalyn Sutton-Jackson (three interceptions) and junior safety Joseph Barrett (two interceptions, one fumble recovery) leading the way.
Gerbus, who has a team-high 110 tackles, returned an interception 66 yards for a touchdown in the Region 4 final.
“One of the things we pride ourselves on is having no turnovers, so we need to be stronger with the ball this time,” Sharrett said.
Sharrett said the Tigers’ offense will utilize some different blocking schemes after rushing for only 75 yards on 25 carries in the first meeting. Billy Eakins had a 78-yard touchdown run, meaning Central was held to minus-3 yards on its other 24 carries.
“St. Xavier is very difficult to move off the ball because their line is big, long and rangy,” Sharrett said. “So we’ll need to use some motion and shift guys around to find the right angles to run the ball on them.”
Quarterback Nick Jensen-Clagg likely will need to complete some passes downfield to stretch St. Xavier’s defense and free up running lanes for Eakins (867 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns on 123 carries) and Devone Penick (656 rushing yards and 10 scores on 89 carries).
Jensen-Clagg is 97-for-168 passing for 1,597 yards with 14 touchdowns and six interceptions.
Jake Raymond (31 catches for 603 yards and four touchdowns), Roger Lewis (19 catches for 422 yards and seven scores) and Eakins (18 catches for 255 yards) are Central’s top receivers.
In the first meeting, Jensen-Clagg was 12-for-22 passing for 179 yards with touchdowns of 43 and 39 yards to Lewis. He also threw three interceptions.
“If we need to throw the ball fives times in a row or run the ball five times in a row to move the ball, that’s what we’ll do,” Sharrett said. “But I think we’ll need to have a good blend of both in this game because St. Xavier has good athletes all over the field.”
PickeringtonSportsRadio.com will be broadcasting live the Regional Champsionship of the OHSAA State Football Playoffs. PSR will carry live the Hilliard Davidson vs. Pickerington Central football game on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2011 at 7:00 p.m. The pregame show begins at 6:45 p.m.
Play by play voice Chris Solwecki and color analyst Chris Vail will bring you all of the action.
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(Aaron Blackenship/This Week) The Hilliard Davidson High School football team’s run-oriented offense is known for putting together long, time-consuming drives to keep the ball out of the hands of their opponents.
Davidson coach Brian White said that strategy will be crucial when the Wildcats meet Pickerington Central in the Division I, Region 3 final at 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 19, at Ohio Wesleyan.
The regional champion advances to a state semifinal Nov. 26.
Central improved to 9-2 with a 41-10 win over Gahanna in a regional semifinal Nov. 12 at Ohio Wesleyan. Davidson is 11-0 after defeating Upper Arlington 15-6 in a semifinal the same day at DeSales.
The Wildcats defeated Central 13-6 in the Region 3 final a year ago after beating the Tigers 17-7 in a regional semifinal in 2009. Central beat Davidson 7-3 in the regional final in 2008.
“Pickerington Central has a lot of weapons, so it’s very important that we hold onto the ball for as long as possible to limit their number of chances,” White said. “That’s the way we try to play every week, but it’s even more important against a team that’s as talented as they are.
“We like to run the ball, and we’re not a big-play team. We don’t have many gadget plays and we’re not going to put any new ones in this late in the season and try to pull a rabbit out of our hat. We need to stay on schedule and run the ball effectively.”
The Wildcats expect running back Alex Mickley again to carry the load.
Mickley has rushed for 1,476 yards and 21 touchdowns on 269 carries, and he ran for 209 yards and two scores on 43 carries against UA.
The Wildcats rarely throw the ball, as quarterback Brandon Gleim is 6-for-11 passing for 98 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. Gleim has only one pass attempt in the postseason, which was an incompletion.
Opponents have had a difficult time running the ball against Central’s defense, which features five Division I college recruits in lineman Jacoby Boren (Ohio State), linebackers Taco Charlton (undecided) and Jake Kincaid (Kent State), free safety Sebastian Smith (Indiana) and cornerback Roger Lewis (Ohio State).
Gahanna rushed for only 20 yards on 18 carries against Central, and the Tigers have allowed 1,067 yards rushing on 385 attempts.
Central’s defense will load the box to try to overpower Davidson’s linemen, but Tigers coach Jay Sharrett said his safeties must be ready in case the Wildcats run to the perimeter or throw the ball.
“There’s a reason why Hilliard Davidson has won 11 games in a row, and their game is playing good defense and ball-control offense,” Sharrett said. “Mickley has that forward lean that all Davidson backs have, so we’ve got to gang tackle him to bring him down as soon as possible. They run inside the tackles a lot, but every so often they like to go outside with a quick sweep toss or pass, so you’ve got to account for those plays, too.”
Central running back Devone Penick said the Tigers’ offensive players need to remain calm and focused on the sideline when Davidson does put together its trademark marathon drives.
Penick is Central’s second-leading rusher with 628 yards and 10 touchdowns on 79 carries behind Billy Eakins (713 yards and 12 touchdowns on 103 carries).
“The big thing is we need to be patient and make the most of our opportunities when they come to us,” Penick said. “We need to stay on our blocks and do what we do best instead of worrying about what their offense is doing.”
Central quarterback Nick Jensen-Clagg said the Tigers can’t allow themselves to get caught up in trying to match the way the Wildcats’ offense methodically marches down the field.
Jensen-Clagg has completed 88 of 161 passes for 1,505 yards with 13 touchdowns and four interceptions.
Central’s top wide receivers are Jake Raymond (29 catches for 585 yards and four touchdowns), Lewis (17 catches for 411 yards and six touchdowns) and Eakins (16 catches for 229 yards and one score).
“When they have the ball a long time, we just need to stay loose on the sideline and be ready to play when we have the opportunity,” Jensen-Clagg said. “We like to play our game quick, and we’ll try to come out and score a quick touchdown to make them have to play from behind. We’ve been running the ball well lately, but we’ll be ready to pass if that’s what we need to do.”
Davidson’s defense, led by linebacker Sam Coles, has been stingy, giving up an average of only 3.1 points per contest and posting six shutouts.
White said his defensive line will need to hold its own against Central’s offensive line to prevent the Tigers from wearing down the Wildcats with their power running game.
Just as important, White said his kickoff and punt coverage teams must contain the Tigers’ returners.
The Wildcats will kick away from Lewis as much as possible, as Lewis has taken back three of his four kickoff returns for touchdowns and has returned a punt for a score.
“Games are won or lost at the line of scrimmage and Pickerington Central is spectacular on both fronts, so we have to play mistake-free football just to compete with them,” White said. “They’re definitely not a one-dimensional offense. They can throw it short or deep, and they run inside and outside the tackles well.
“It’s hard enough to stop their offense on a long field, so we need to play well on special teams so they don’t have a short field to work with. They have some tremendous athletes who can do a lot in space, so we need to get down the field quick and stay in our lanes.”
PickeringtonSportsRadio.com will be broadcasting live the second round of the OHSAA State Football Playoffs. PSR will carry live the Gahanna vs. Pickerington Central football game on Saturday, Nov. 12, 2011 at 7:00 p.m. The pregame show begins at 6:45 p.m.