It was the second straight season Central eliminated Northmont (10-2) in the postseason. The Tigers won 41-21 in an opening-round matchup last year. That was the first of five straight Central playoff wins that culminated with a 56-28 defeat of Mentor in the state championship.
»RELATED: Northmont leads GWOC reps in D-I, Region 3
»RELATED: Final football power rankings
Northmont led 7-0 when senior quarterback Miles Johnson ran five yards for a touchdown late in the first quarter. Then Central took over.
“What’s neat about our team is a lot of them are from the state championship team from last year,” veteran Central coach Jay Sharrett said. “You get down a score and you don’t panic. You just dig your cleats a little deeper into the turf and go to work.”
»RELATED: Area teams in football playoffs
»FACEBOOK: For more sports you should like Marc Pendleton
Featuring the GWOC’s leading passer in Johnson, Northmont’s usually potent air attack was unplugged. Central returned three passes for touchdowns and the rout was on.
“You can’t turn the ball over like that against the champs,” Northmont coach Tony Broering said. “They had so many short fields and so many opportunities, it wore us down. They did a good job on defense forcing us into those mistakes.”
»FACEBOOK LIVE: Hartsock and Pendleton on football playoffs
»TWITTER: You should like @MarcPendleton
Terry Simuel returned an interception 35 yards for a score to account for Central’s 16-7 halftime lead. Less than two minutes into the second half DeWayne Carter went 11 yards with an interception for another Tigers’ score.
But Central wasn’t done, because Jaquwon Crawford zig-zagged 70 yards with yet another interception for the Tigers’ third pick-6 midway through the fourth quarter.
»RELATED: Alter dodges Cin. Mt. Healthy
»PHOTOS: Alter vs. Cin. Mt. Healthy, football playoffs
It was a similar Northmont meltdown that also cost the Thunderbolts a 49-20 Week 5 loss at Wayne. This time it snapped the Thunderbolts’ six-game win streak.
Johnson completed just 6 of 19 passes for 53 yards and those three picks. Receivers Juston Golson, Drake Hickman and Jazz Keys all had two catches each. Combined with Michael Franklin’s 43 yards rushing, Northmont was limited to 136 yards of total offense.
»RELATED: Alter football state poll champs
»RELATED: Final football state polls
“They’re a great team and they have a lot of experience in the playoffs,” Northmont senior defensive end Gabe Newburg said. “Even though it was a negative way to end the season, I’m really proud of all our guys.”
Northmont broke Springfield’s unbeaten run 25-7 in Week 7 and the GWOC teams would have had a rematch had they won on Friday. Instead, it’s Central that gets a rematch with Ohio Capital Conference rival Davidson. Central defeated Davidson 17-14 in overtime in Week 5 of the regular season.
»RELATED: Football playoffs by the numbers
»RELATED: Week 10 football rewind
“Only one team is going to end the season happy and it’s probably Pickerington Central,” Broering said. “We ran into them again and we’re going to keep running into them. They’re probably going to win state again. I don’t know who’s going to beat them.”
The Ohio High School Athletic Association will announce neutral sites for all the Week 13 regional finals on Sunday.
»PHOTOS: Northmont at Miamisburg, Week 10 football
»PHOTOS: Fairmont at Wayne, Week 8 football
»PHOTOS: Miamisburg at Lebanon, Week 8 football
»PHOTOS: Springfield at Northmont, Week 7 football
»PHOTOS: Oakwood at Brookville, Week 6 football
»PHOTOS: Fairmont at Miamisburg, Week 6 football
»PHOTOS: Northmont at Wayne, Week 5 football