Cen­tral, Men­tor yet to win ti­tle

The Columbus Dispatch - - Sports Report College Football Broadcasting Mls - By Steve Black­ledge sblack­ledge@dis­patch.com @Black­iePreps

Although Pick­er­ing­ton Cen­tral and Men­tor are sep­a­rated by 176 miles of Ohio pave­ment, their foot­ball teams find them­selves in a strik­ingly sim­i­lar place en­ter­ing the Di­vi­sion I state cham­pi­onship on Fri­day night in Can­ton.

Over the past two decades, both pro­grams have been on the doorstep of cap­tur­ing the elu­sive gold tro­phy, only to come up short. Pick­er­ing­ton Cen­tral dropped ti­tle games in 2006 (in Di­vi­sion II) and 2011, and Men­tor did the same in 2006, 2007 and 2013. They have qual­i­fied for the play­offs a com­bined 35 times, win­ning 62 games and reach­ing 11 fi­nal fours.

“One of us is go­ing to go home with our first state cham­pi­onship, and it’s go­ing to be aw­fully sweet,” 15th-year Pick­er­ing­ton Cen­tral coach Jay Shar­rett said.

Men­tor coach Steve Triv­i­sonno, who is in his 21st year, and Car­di­nals fans per­haps have been tor­tured worse, los­ing 36-35 in dou­ble over­time to Hil­liard David­son in 2006 and fall­ing to Cincin­nati Moeller 55-52 in a record-set­ting fi­nal four years ago.

“As coach Shar­rett will prob­a­bly tell you, ev­ery team and ev­ery year is dif­fer­ent, and all you’re re­ally think­ing about is what’s at hand now,” Triv­i­sonno said. “We’ve had a lot of great teams here over the years. It’s im­pos­si­ble to com­pare, re­ally. Get­ting to this point is in­cred­i­bly dif­fi­cult. Both of our teams are re­ally bat­tle-tested.”

To get here, Men­tor (13-1) beat long­time north­east Ohio neme­ses Cleve­land St. Ig­natius and Lake­wood St. Ed­ward, and then Olen­tangy Lib­erty, in suc­ces­sion. Pick­er­ing­ton Cen­tral (13-1) took out un­beaten Hil­liard Bradley, crosstown ri­val Pick­er­ing­ton North and Cincin­nati Col­erain. Both teams have won their share of close games.

On pa­per, it looks like an even matchup. Men­tor is scor­ing 41.4 points per game and al­low­ing 22.1. Pick­er­ing­ton Cen­tral scores 33.5 and yields 17.1.

“Un­like our last few op­po­nents, Men­tor runs and throws it with equal ef­fi­ciency out of their spread,” Shar­rett said. “They re­ally chal­lenge you de­fen­sively with what they do. They’ve got a lot of weapons.”

The Car­di­nals of­fense runs through se­nior quar­ter­back Tadas Tatarunas, who has passed for 3,228 yards with 30 touch­downs. He has five re­ceivers be­tween 400 and 1,000 yards and a pair of 1,000yard backs in Eli­jah McDougal and Chris Ed­mond. McDougal is ex­pected to re­turn after miss­ing the semi­fi­nal with a sprained an­kle.

Men­tor’s top de­fen­sive player is 6-foot-5, 250-pound ju­nior de­fen­sive tackle Noah Pot­ter, who al­ready has been of­fered by Ohio State, among others. His brother, Micah, is a bas­ket­ball player for the Buck­eyes.

Sopho­more quar­ter­back De­meatric Cren­shaw is the cat­a­lyst for Pick­er­ing­ton Cen­tral’s of­fense, hav­ing rushed for 1,218 yards and 18 touch­downs and thrown for 1,500 yards and 13 TDs. The Tigers tra­di­tion­ally spread the wealth in the pass and run game.

“They’re ath­let­i­cally as good as any­body we’ve seen, and that’s say­ing some­thing when you look at our sched­ule,” Triv­i­sonno said. “I hear they have some­thing like seven Di­vi­sion I ath­letes, and I be­lieve it. We’ve faced teams with more big-time play­ers, but maybe not as many from top to bot­tom like Pick­er­ing­ton does.”

An­other thing Cen­tral has go­ing in its fa­vor is an at­tack­ing, op­por­tunis­tic de­fense. The Tigers are plus-21 in turnover mar­gin. Men­tor is plus-1.

“I haven’t even seen their stats, but just from watch­ing film, I can see that they feast on turnovers,” Triv­i­sonno said. “They not only get them, but they score off them. That’s go­ing to be a big key for us, not turn­ing the ball over to them.”

[JOHN HULKEN­BERG/THISWEEK NEWS­PA­PERS]

Pick­er­ing­ton Cen­tral quar­ter­back De­meatric Cren­shaw, a sopho­more, has rushed for 1,218 yards and 18 touch­downs and thrown for 1,500 yards and 13 TDs.

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