Nov 16, 2017

Players: Crosstown Rivalry Doesn’t Affect Game Prep

North and Central football players on scrimmage line

It’s no secret that when Pickerington’s two high schools meet on the football field, there’s plenty of talk of the rivalry between the Tigers and Panthers.

And while students don’t deny the rivalry gets a lot of attention, four of the players interviewed this week in preparation for Friday night’s regional final game between North and Central say the rivalry is still a “family feud” that reflects healthy and friendly competition.

The teams will compete in the regional finals at 7:30 p.m. Friday night at DeSales High School. Presale tickets are $8 and will be available at North until 7 p.m. Thursday and 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday and at Central until 3 p.m. Thursday and from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday.

Tickets also will be available for $9 at the gate. Parking is $3.

“I have friends over there at Central,” said Jimmy Weirick, North’s quarterback. “We grew up playing against them. We talked about (competing in this kind of game) as kids. Now, we’re doing just that. It’s pretty cool.”

Tyler Poe, a right guard from Central, said the crosstown rivalry doesn’t necessarily become that much of a factor in preparing for the game. It’s not going to change what happens on the field – and what happens leading up to and during game time is nothing personal.

“We know we’ve been here before,” he said. “This is a business trip. We know we just have to handle the business.”

Weirick agrees that the excitement leading up to a critical game like this one would be the same regardless of the competition.

“It’s not really about who we’re playing. It’s just about what we can do for ourselves to control the game,” he said. “We have to be firing on what we need to do.”

Central’s center, Brandon Wilson, said there is always some friendly trash talking that happens leading up to any game, and the players will always take the competition seriously.

“But off the field, we’re all cool, honestly,” he said. “On the field, it’s a different story.”

“That’s the case with any sport and any team in Pickerington,” Poe added. “Off the field, I have a lot of friends from North, including a lot of friends who play football at North.”

Nick Giardina, linebacker for the Panthers, said this Friday night’s game would be “business as usual.”

“We don’t really think about it being Central,” he said. “It’s just another team, another win we have to get.”

The stakes are a little higher than normal this week, with the winner continuing into the state semifinals. Despite the importance of the game, the students are usually friendly about the competition. Sometimes, it’s the adults who unleash the negativity.

“I can tell you, there are a lot of parents who are Facebook warriors out there who really take 17-, 18-, and 16-year old kids playing against each other very seriously,” Weirick said. “They take that to heart, and while that’s good if you’re rooting on your son or daughter, it does get out of hand with the parents sometimes. People need to sit back and realize it’s just a football game.”

Wilson agreed. While there’s certainly pride in winning and having crosstown bragging rights in Pickerington, “To the players, the rivalry doesn’t really matter. We just try to be good every week.”

Superintendent Chris Briggs said it’s always exciting to have healthy rivalry between two strong competitors.

“Let’s face it, teams keep score for a reason. Everyone wants to win, and I have watched two amazing football teams bring an incredible amount of pride to our community this year,” he said. “But ultimately, we have to remember that we may have two competitive schools, but we are still one community. We are all Pickerington.”