Pickerington North rallies for OCC Central Division road win at Westerville Central

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Pick. North 20, West. Cent. 19
If the Pickerington North High School football team wins an OCC-Central
Division crown this season, it might point to its game against
Westerville Central on Friday as a defining moment in the title march. The visiting Panthers rallied in the fourth quarter for a 20-19 win, spoiling Homecoming at Central. North trailed 13-7 at the half and 19-7 after three quarters before scoring 13 unanswered points in the final nine minutes.


WESTERVILLE – If the Pickerington North High School football team wins an OCC-Central Division crown this season, it might point to its game against Westerville Central on Friday as a defining moment in the title march.

The visiting Panthers rallied in the fourth quarter for a 20-19 win, spoiling Homecoming at Central.

North trailed 13-7 at the half and 19-7 after three quarters before scoring 13 unanswered points in the final nine minutes.

North improves to 3-4 overall and stands atop the division standings at 2-0.

Central falls to 1-6 overall and 1-1 in the division.

North quarterback Byron Johann sparked the late uprising, hitting Justin Young for a 20-yard touchdown strike with 9:00 remaining as the Panthers closed to within 19-13.

Johann’s 70-yard connection to Alex Bayer set up the score.

It didn’t take North to claim its lone lead of the game as Pat Effinger intercepted a Keegan Varner pass on the Warhawks’ next possession and raced 24 yards for the tying score with 8:47 left. Jon Cieply’s extra point conversion gave the Panthers the lead for good.

“They ran that play (slant) a few times and beat me on it, so I knew he was going to throw it because it was the same one on the 2-point conversion that they tried and I picked that one off,” Effinger said. “I knew it was coming and (Varner) didn’t really read it, he just threw it up there, so I tried to make a play on the ball and take it back.”

The Warhawks had two possessions in the final eight minutes, but were unable to get into scoring position.

Johann, the team’s punter, pinned the Warhawks at their 3-yard line with a 52-yard punt with two minutes left.

“This is big for us,” North coach Tom Phillips said. “We’ve always been on the other side of that. That was a great football game. With all of the mistakes we made, we were lucky to walk out of here with a 20-19 win.”

Central took a 13-0 lead in the first half.

Varner connected with Taylor Miller for a 22-yard touchdown and Onesiaum Glass scored on an 11-yard run to help the hosts build their early lead.

Johann’s 20-yard TD strike to Xander Mitchell pulled the Panthers to within 13-7 with 14 seconds remaining in the half. Mitchell’s 51-yard punt return set up North’s first score.

Glass added a 10-yard TD run in the third quarter as the Warhawks extended their lead.

Johann completed 11 of 19 passes for 156 yards and a score. Workhorse running back Gianni Lynch rushed for 96 yards on 20 carries and Bayer caught three passes for 85 yards.

For Central, Varner ran for 78 yards on 15 attempts and completed 9 of 23 passes for 113 yards and. Glass added 71 yards on 17 carries.

Miller caught six passes for 103 yards.

“We’ve been trying to work on getting that killer instinct and I think we took a huge step in doing so this week,” Effinger said. “We didn’t get all the calls, we didn’t get all the plays. The balls weren’t bouncing our way, but everybody stayed positive and that’s the main thing. Everyone on this team – especially the seniors – wants an OCC title.”

“It was momentum,” Phillips said of the comeback. “We gained the momentum on the interception. We lost it in the third quarter with that option (JaQuan Lawson’s 37-yard run) when we could have had them deep in their territory, but we came back. We held our composure and we came back. We had a nice running game going and we hit the big play. We haven’t had that for seven weeks.”

North will return to action on Friday when it visits Delaware Hayes (1-1, 3-4).

The Warhawks will look to bounce back on Friday when it visits Central Crossing (0-2, 1-6).

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