PICKERINGTON, Ohio (WCMH) — Pickerington North and Pickerington Central will face off for a second time this season on Friday when the two rivals play at Newark in the regional semifinals.
In their first meeting on Sept. 10, the Panthers beat the Tigers 13-10 in overtime — Pick North’s first win in the rivalry game since November 2013.
“”Everybody from the student section ran on the field,” Pick North senior Braden Watts said. “The fans stormed the locker room too after the game. Emotions ran high.”
Pick North, down by seven with less than two minutes left, forced a fumble and scored to force overtime where Harry Agganis drilled the game-winning field goal.
“It proved that we could beat anybody, that we could play with anybody really,” Watts said.
In his fourth year at the helm, Nathan Hillerich ended an eight-year drought against their bitter rival.
“It’s a fact now that we can win,” Hillerich said. “A lot of times people would talk about believing and all that but it’s one thing when you do it.”
“When we lost that game, we knew we had to turn around some things and change some things . . . team wise, coaching wise, how we’re handling ourselves and here we are sitting at 11-1,” Pick Central coach Jay Sharrett said.
But that one loss still sticks with the Tigers.
“I think it fuels you, makes you play a little harder, play a little meaner, so it’s not really something you forget,” Pick Central junior Sonny Styles said.
“We got humbled from that loss and we’ve just been getting better every week,” Pick Central senior Tyler Gillison said. “We’ve been going to practice hungrier, hungrier everyday to get better.”
And the Panthers are hungry too.
“I mean the win doesn’t really do anything for us. We’re still hungry, we still want to beat them just as bad,” Pick North junior Grant Burke said. “Out of all 3 years I’ve played here, this is just the most hungry group I’ve played with.”
The last time these two teams went head-to-head in the playoffs was 2017 in the regional championship. The Tigers won 31-14.
“I think what maybe separates the Pickerington rivalry from any local, community rivalry around here is when we play it’s for championships,” Hillerich said.