LEWIS CENTER – The best athlete on the football field at Olentangy Orange Friday night was Pickerington North’s Jack Sawyer.
North – looking for a win any way it could get one – used its star defensive end at quarterback.
And it worked.
The Orange defense had no answer as the Ohio State recruit racked up three touchdowns on the ground and another passing as the Panthers parlayed a 21-0 first quarter lead into an 38-17 victory in non-league play.
“We thought to control this game, we needed to run the football,” North coach Nate Hillerich said. “We thought putting Jack back there would give us a little edge to run the football. It’s never going to hurt to put the ball in the best player in the country’s hands.”
Sawyer’s need at quarterback was two-fold after Dom Myers injured his knee.
“Our quarterback tweaked his knee this week and the coaches’ said, ‘you’re up’. I just kind of accepted the role,” he said. “I didn’t want to do too much – I didn’t want to force anything. I let it come to me.”
Myers was cleared to play and did. He completed all six of his passes for 51 yards.
But, a fumble on a quarterback-running back exchange left the door open for the Pioneers.
Dylan Dempsey recovered the fumble for Orange and Spencer Hawkins scampered 44 yards on the next play to pull the Pioneers within a 24-17 margin late in the second quarter.
Orange coach Zebb Schroeder felt momentum was in the Pioneers’ corner as they got the ball to start the second half.
“We get everything wanted … we’re a one-score game coming out of the half,” he said. “I thought the three-and-out coming out of the half was … just tough. We had a lot of momentum to seize there and we let an opportunity slip by.”
Sawyer, who ran for 135 yards, scored his third touchdown of the game – a 27-yard run on a broken play. That was a bridge too far for Orange.
“We just didn’t play very well tonight,” Schroeder said. “We made a lot of mistakes. It was just an uncharacteristic night for us all around.”
Sawyer’s first score was also a broken play after a fumbled snap that he turned into a 27-yard run to give North a 7-0 lead.
It became 14-0 after Sawyer scored from three yards out on the play after Colby Baker recovered a fumble on Orange’s first play from scrimmage.
“Going up 21-0 was big for us,” said Lawrence, who’s 53-yard catch-and-run off a screen pass in the second quarter set the margin. “This was our very first lead of the year.”
Lawrence carried 20 times for 87 yards and added 39 yards receiving on five catches for the Panthers (1-2).
Defensively, the Panthers shut out Orange in the second half. Javontea Robinson finished with 10.5 tackles, including two for loss, and Lawson Vaughn added 9.5 tackles.
John Lipscomb had an interception at the North 1-yard line in the fourth quarter to thwart the Pioneers’ best opportunity at points and Sawyer was held to one tackle – a sack.
Hawkins rushed for 52 yards on 12 carries, Jake Vanchieri added 47 yards on 14 carries and Henry Groce, who broke a 63-yard run on the final series of the game, ended up leading the Pioneers (2-1) with 68 yards on four carries.
Josh Laisure had 6.5 tackles to lead Orange on defense.
Next up, Orange travels to Big Walnut in non-league action Friday night at 7 p.m.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichnotwealthy or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.