HUBER HEIGHTS — Two battle tested teams are set to open the 2017 playoffs, when the Pickerington North Panthers (8-2 [4-1 Home, 4-1 Away]) take on the Wayne Warriors (7-3) at Good Samaritan Field Heidkamp Stadium in Huber Heights Friday night.
Pickerington North’s only two losses this year have been by a total of 4 points. The Panthers losses are a 27-26 loss at Centerville, where a missed extra point was the difference and a 24-21 loss to rival Pickerington Central at home. The Panthers’ last win was 35-16 over Gahanna Lincoln at home. In the winning effort, senior quarterback Jimmy Weirick had 74 yards on the ground, 317 yards passing and 4 touchdowns; 187 yards and 3 touchdowns of that total were to senior wide receiver Ty Wiley.
Wayne enters the playoffs coming off of a 14-7 loss to Trotwood in a driving rain. Fortunately for Wayne, the loss was not enough to drop them out of position for a home game.
The common opponents between Wayne and Pickerington North are Clarkson (Ontario), Centerville and Olentangy Liberty. Wayne and Pickerington North both went 2-1 against these opponents. Both shut out Liberty, Panthers by a 40-0 score and Wayne 17-0. Both lost to Centerville, Warriors 39-22, Panthers 27-26. Both teams beat Clarkson (Ontario Canada), Wayne 34-21, Panthers 40-7.
When Pickerington North has the ball
You can’t mention the Panthers’ offense without mentioning the name Jimmy Weirick. Senior Jimmy Weirick, a four year starter has amassed 2,122 yards passing, and also leads the team in rushing yards with 751 yards. Don’t be fooled by his size 5-feet, 11-inches and about 175 lbs., think Russell Wilson. Weirick is shifty and elusive; his shuttle time listed on Hudl is an amazing 4.1 seconds. He has an offer from Robert Morris and has had some moderate interest from other MAC schools.
Defenses have two choices; let Jimmy Weirick run or contain him and make him beat you throwing it. Forcing Weirick to throw didn’t work well for Gahanna Lincoln and Dublin Coffman. Pickerington North was able to put up over 30 points on both and defeat them handily.
Weirick’s main target is 6-foot, 175 lbs. senior wideout Ty Wiley. Wiley has good speed and good ball skills. He locates the ball well and has good hands. He will line up wide or in the slot, but is mainly used to stretch the field. His presence helps to keep the safeties honest and not cheat up to stop Weirick.
Wayne will want to contain Weirick and not let him escape and make plays. If Weirick is contained in the pocket and forced to put the ball in the air, the Warriors’ defensive backs should be able to handle the Panthers’ receivers. Wayne can’t forget about the run though. Pickerington North will also hand the ball off to a running back to set up running plays for Weirick, so Wayne will have to be ready for that as well.
When Wayne has the ball
Pickerington North’s defense is good at controlling the game. Its defense has not been overwhelmed in any games this year. It has given up only 119 points for an average of 11.9 points per game. The Panther’s defense has held six of its 10 opponents to seven points or less and has two shutouts in which it held its opponent to under 70 total yards.
Wayne will keep its eye on the weather forecast, as it will need its passing game going. Wayne’s playmakers have to be chomping at the bit to get back out and show that last week was an anomaly. McKee has plenty of options to attack the Panthers defense and when he’s distributing the ball effectively, Wayne’s offense can be a handful. While the Pickerington defense is good, there will be plays to be made out there.
Garrett Russell continues to be solid in the kicking department. He has gotten better every game. Those long kicks into the end zone come in handy when there is a dangerous returner on the other end. He also has the distance and accuracy to possibly be the difference in a playoff game going forward.
The Panthers don’t punt much, but when they do their punter Chris Scott averages over 40 yards per punt. Jimmy Weirick has punted a few times this year so faking a punt may not be a difficult decision if the opportunity presents itself.
Pickerington North is a complete team, it has a good defense and potent offense. Wayne has shown that it can handle any team it faces if it doesn’t turn the ball over. That will be the key to this game. If Wayne plays a clean game then it has the players and the coaching staff to win this game. Wayne will also have its home crowd behind it. The senior class of Warriors will want to make this last home game a memorable one.
Reach Robert Williamson II by email: RobertWilliamsonII@hotmail.com