LONDON — The stage is set for the Region 3 finals as Wayne (11-0-1) travels back to London High School to take one Pickerington Central (11-1).
Wayne is coming off of a 52-10 total dismantling of Dublin Coffman; a game in which Wayne held the Shamrocks’ weapons in check and moved the ball freely all night. Pickerington Central beat rival Pickerington North 38-24 last week in a game played at Gahanna Lincoln High School.
As expected the Warriors faced a Dublin Coffman front crowding the box to stop Fred Pitts and Wayne didn’t take much time exploiting the obvious miss-match on L’Christian Smith, until Coffman rolled extra coverage over to his side. Smith still beat double coverage on some plays, but quarterback Rashad McKee didn’t have to go to Smith because he has a full cache of weapons. McKee made some really good throws and Wayne’s receivers ran good routes and made difficult catches all night, even when covered well. In the end there were way too many players for Coffman to stop and the Wayne defense was dominant. Pitts found holes when he needed to and Wayne rolled.
Pickerington Central has some athletes of its own and they were on display last Friday in a big win over Pickerington North. Central’s athletes came up big against North, putting up 21 of its 34 points on long runs. Central jumped out to leads of 17-0 and 24-6 and then lost focus, even letting North get as close as 31-24 (Central lead) with a little over 6 minutes left in the game. Central just didn’t play a disciplined game, turning the ball over numerous times and not executing consistently. That is actually a microcosm of the problems Pickerington Central fans have with their football team. It has been described as a poorly coached undisciplined team that plays below its potential.
Central’s 6-foot, 4-inch, 220 pound senior running back and Ohio University commit Morgan Ellison had two of Central’s long touchdown runs; one for 91 and the other for 85. Ellison had 289 yards on 22 carries and 4 touchdowns. Senior Darius Coker had the other long touchdown run, an 80 yard scamper on a quarterback keeper.
Coker had 154 yards on 15 carries and one touchdown. Coker is a mobile quarterback that is mostly used to run the ball but can pass the ball. The combination of Coker, Ellison and a physical offensive line can put a lot of pressure on a defense, but the passing game is streaky at best. The knock on Coker is that although he has a good arm, he lacks in mechanics.
Coker has a large target in 6-foot, 5-inch 220 pound (listed weight) junior four star tight end Trenton Gillison. Gillison is a safety blanket for Coker. He’s a matchup problem for a lot of high school defensive backs. He doesn’t have great speed at a 4.90 forty yard time, but is easy to find when Central runs play action.
The tests that McKee faced in Trotwood and Springfield over the final two games of the regular season prepared him for this playoff run. The Springfield game had to do with field position, as the conditions limited what McKee was able to do which presented a mental test. The test against Trotwood was pressure from a quick defense and recognizing what the defense was giving him.
He also had a few games in the middle of the season in which he didn’t have his best game early, but showed he can overcome adversity. He came into this season with many question marks; many of those because Warriors fans had no idea what he was capable of. The fans knew that Wayne had a great line, strong running game and playmakers in every position, but could McKee get them the ball effectively? McKee is erasing that question mark and slowly turning it into and exclamation mark.
Pickerington Central just may be as athletic as any team Wayne has faced this year. The only argument may be that the Trotwood front seven, which was the most athletic front seven Wayne has faced so far, might be better.The Rams’ linebacker corps was fast and physical. Pickerington Central has an athletic secondary that is fast and physical, and the front seven likes to get pressure on the quarterback but it’s nothing like Trotwood’s.
One of the most athletic players on the team is 6-foot junior defensive back Xavier Henderson. He is a playmaker that good in coverage and run support. As a testament to his athleticism, Henderson is a Michigan State commit that was recruited in the category of “athlete.” He is also has a good feel for kick and punt returns, so he’s a threat at any time to score on special teams.
The Central offense is a run oriented offense which utilizes a big running back and various backfield formations and run options. The Tigers have enough speed at wide receiver to be dangerous, but the Tigers don’t want to be forced to throw the ball because its passing game is not very strong. They do their damage on the ground and use their passing game as a compliment, because their quarterback is still a work in progress as far as his skills and mechanics are concerned.
This may sound like a broken record but if Wayne comes out and executes on both sides of the ball this game won’t be close. Wayne should still have the edge in the trenches in this game and Pickerington Central has a lot of holes and are not known for sharp execution. If the Tigers come out focused then this game will be closer than most think. Pickerington Central has a punchers chance if it keeps the game close late in the game.
Originally this game was going to be played at Hilliard Bradley High School, but Bradley High later declined to host the contest. The change in venue shortens the Wayne fans’ drive 10 minutes and adds 10 minutes to the Pickerington Central drive.
Reach Robert Williamson II at: firstname.lastname@example.org