For Moeller everything old is new again. After taking care of business a week ago versus Colerain to claim the Region 4 title the Crusaders find themselves back in the final four for the first time in 15 years. It is a spot that they had become very accustomed to being in before the drought.
Pickerington North is a newcomer to the party. The Panthers' program has never enjoyed this kind of post-season success. You can bet there will be plenty of butterflies on both sides of the ball in the first quarter of this affair.
MOELLER CRUSADERS (10-3) vs. PICKERINGTON NORTH PANTHERS (12-1)
Site: Welcome Stadium – University of Dayton
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 24th at 7:00 p.m.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Godwin Igwebuike has rushed for 1,787 yards with 34 touchdowns. Quarterback Mason Olszewski has thrown for 1,761 yards with 20 touchdown passes and only six interceptions. His top target is Jake Butt, who has 64 receptions for 854 yards while finding the end zone 12 times. The Panthers will run the Wildcat formation on offense. All three seniors are also vital cogs on defense. Igwebuike and Olszewski have combined for 15 takeaways in 2012. The defensive unit is headed up by Dylan Weigel, Trae Harris, Warren Stoddard and Frankie Weirick, who have a propensity for getting into backfield and stopping plays for negative yardage. The PN special teams' unit gets a lift in the return game from Roland Ladipo and the big leg of kicker Karch Holland.
Keith Watkins has played like a First-Team All-Ohio running back the entire season. Watkins amassed 1,963 yards on the ground and has eclipsed the century mark in 12 of 13 tilts while scoring at least one rushing touchdown in every contest. His success wouldn't be possible without the play of a monstrous offensive line that includes Alex Gall, Chris Henke and Blake Chambliss. The passing game has been almost non-existent in the postseason as starter Spencer Iacavone is averaging just 77 yards per game through the air. That is almost less than half of what he averaged during the regular season (148). Defensively, Moeller needs to step things up as they are allowing 372 yards per contest in the playoffs. It hasn't been because of the efforts of Shane Jones, Kaleb Nypaver and Nick Szabados, who have each excelled down the stretch.
TEAM TRENDS: Moeller won their 12th Regional title last Saturday and first since 1997. The Crusaders have never lost in the state-semi-finals, winning the state championship seven times and finishing second four more times. Moeller has made the playoffs 11 straight seasons, the longest current streak by a Division I team in the state of Ohio. Pickerington North won its first ever Regional title on last weekend. The Panthers are in the postseason for just the second time in their history and had never won a playoff game until three weeks ago.
MOELLER'S KEYS TO VICTORY: Getting out of Region 4 and past Colerain and other GCL South foes for the first time since 1997 should take a large burden the Crusaders' shoulders. Look for Moeller to play relaxed and come out with all guns blazing. One area that the Moeller defense needs to rectify is their inability to stop foes from converting on third down in the playoffs. Opponents are converting 54.5 percent of the time the last three weeks. With a ground game that has been dominating in November the Crusaders defense can help out the cause by getting off the field and producing more three-and-outs.
PICKERINGTON NORTH'S KEYS TO VICTORY: Defense has been the identity of this squad all season. The Panthers are giving up just 10 points per contest and are have a +17 advantage in turnover ratio. That's a formula for "Mucho" victories. They will need another Herculean effort on Saturday night. It is imperative for PN to keep the Big Moe offense off the field as much as possible. The good news for Pickerington North is that teams have been able to run the ball on Moeller and that plays into their biggest strength on offense.
MOELLER 24, PICKERINGTON NORTH 17
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