With half the regular season now in the books, its becoming clear which teams are playoff contenders and which teams are just hoping to limp through the remainder of the season.
The teams who boast sparkling records are usually the ones that can do more than just put points on the scoreboard; they also get big contributions on defense and special teams.
This week we honor those players who made big plays any way other than on offense and to little surprise many play on teams considered amongst the best in the state.
The train that is Lakewood St. Edward kept rolling with an impressive dismantling of Cincinnati Elder at the Pit. The Eagles' defense harassed Elder quarterback Nick Gramke in the 20-3 victory, tallying six sacks. The main culprit was defensive end Deonte Gibson. The Pitt commit recorded an impressive 4.5 sacks himself.
Big Walnut kept its perfect record alive with a 23-21 comeback victory over Olentangy Orange. The star was kicker A.J. Fleak, who booted three field goals, including the 37-yard game-winner with 19 second remaining. It was the second time this season that Fleak hit a game-winning field goal in the waning seconds.
Dayton Dunbar defensive back Roger Williamson committed to Michigan State earlier in the week and celebrated by picking off two passes in a 13-7 victory over Findlay. The win was the the third in a row for the Wolverines, who have put themselves back in the Division III, Region 12 playoff race.
Mentor defensive end Kurt Laseak came up huge in a 48-47 victory over previously unbeaten Willoughby South in a game that featured plenty of offensive fireworks. But Laseak's defensive plays were the difference as the junior picked off two passes, including a key interception that resulted in the game-winning touchdown. He also picked off quarterback Ray Russ in the second quarter and added a 49-yard return.
Middletown pushed its record to 5-0 with a 42-9 shellacking of Hamilton. But the score may have been much closer had it not been for junior defensive back Cody Quinn. A week after tallying his first varsity touchdown off an interception return, Quinn made two touchdown saving tackles in which he caught up to ball carriers after 60 yard runs. For good measure, the speedy Quinn also added a 94-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the second quarter.
Columbus Marion-Franklin pushed their record to 5-0 with a dominant 35-6 victory over previously unbeaten Walnut Ridge. The Red Devils forced five turnovers, two of which were credited to linebacker Devante' Strickland. Strickland saved a touchdown by stripping a Walnut Hills receiver near the goal line and recovering the fumble in the endzone for a touchback. He also recorded an interception that he returned 50 yards.
Columbus St. Charles remained unbeaten with a 24-21 victory over Sandusky, a game that remained unsettled until the final play of the game. St. Charles kicker J. Schroeder booted a 37-yard field goal as time expired to give his team the victory.
Give credit to the entire defensive unit for third-ranked Pickerington Central, who were simply sensational in a 42-0 rout of rival Pickerington North. They allowed just 50 total yards of offense and only 1.2 yards per carry.
Finally, if you think Pickerington Central's defensive effort was impressive, it pales in comparison to the job Licking Valley did in a 42-0 win over Whitehall. The Panthers allowed a total of one yard of offense, limiting Whitehall to 20 passing yards and -19 yards rushing.