Northmont's return to the postseason did not go as planned. Making their first appearance since 2013, the No. 6 seed Thunderbolts fell behind 24-0 at No. 3 Pickerington Central and never got back into the game, losing 41-21 in the first round of the Division I, Region 3 playoffs.
Coach Tony Broering bid goodbye to a senior class that helped resurrect the program after three straight losing seasons. Northmont finished 8-3.
"This class was the class that was sophomores when I took over," Broering said. "I played about 10 of them. Last year, seven more kids in that class played as juniors. The majority of team is going to graduate. I will say our junior class is very good. There's some very skilled, talented guys in that class. We have a chance to build from this if we can respond the right way in the offseason and keep working hard."
PHOTOS: Top shots from first half
PLAYOFF PRIMER: 5 things to know about postseason
SCORES: Results from first round
Pickerington Central (10-1) beat two Greater Western Ohio Conference teams in the playoffs last season, Springfield and Wayne, and dominated the Thunderbolts from the start. The Tigers, a state semifinalist in 2016, were making their 12th straight postseason appearance.
"They've been here a lot," Broering said. "It's kind of a new thing for us right now. We've got to get back used to doing that every year so we're ready for it."
Touchdown runs by Jamir Johnson, Lorenzo Styles Jr. and Jeremiah Wood, plus two field goals, staked Pickerington Central to a 27-7 halftime lead.
The Thunderbolts fumbled twice in the first half, though they recovered both, and they also snapped a ball over the punter’s head. Penalties also plagued Northmont. They committed seven for a loss of 42 yards.
"It was tough on the boys," Broering said. "We thought we had a good week of practice. We don't play on grass. It was a new thing for us a little bit in the first quarter. It kind of threw us off a little bit. We practiced on the grass all week at home, and we thought we were ready for it. I really don't think it was the field as much as it was the atmosphere and the stage. We just didn't play very well in the first quarter. The first quarter was not how we've played all year. That was weird, too, for us."
A 25-yard touchdown run by Devin Kenerly in the second quarter provided the only first-half score for Northmont.
Neither team scored in the third quarter. The Tigers extended their lead to 34-7 on a 2-yard run by Wood with 11:48 left in the fourth. Jaquwon Crawford returned an interception 80 yards for a touchdown with 7:46 to go.
Kenerly scored on a 3-yard run with 3:35 to play. Northmont then recovered an onside kick, and Jabari Perkins caught a 37-yard touchdown pass from Donavin Wallace with 3:19 to play.
Northmont’s Miles Johnson completed 16 of 28 passes for 181 yards with two interceptions. Kenerly gained 90 yards on 19 carries.
Pickerington Central quarterback Demeatric Crenshaw completed 7 of 10 passes for 91 yards and rushed for 107 yards on 13 carries.
"I was so proud of how they came out in the second half," Broering said. "They fought so hard in that third quarter. We played them even. Then in the fourth quarter, we had great energy on our side, great attitude on our side. We never quit."