Anything can happen in the playoffs. This is why the Olentangy Orange Pioneers come into the first round expecting a victory over the Pickerington North Panthers, despite the fact the Panthers are projected to win the game by a score of 32-17. The playoffs are an interesting time of year as 7 teams fulfill their most ambitious goal in winning a state championship while the other 217 playoff teams will end their season with a loss. This matchup is no different as the winner will continue their playoff run while the loser will end its 2019 season with a loss. Pickerington North comes in as Division 1's 24th-ranked team. Olentangy Orange comes in ranked 30th. It's a chance for the Pioneers to get revenge as, in their regular season matchup, the Panthers won by a score of 38-17. Last season, they played as well, the Panthers beating the Pioneers 42-7.
Pickerington North is currently on a 2-game winning streak, which they hope to continue on Saturday. Coming off of a 21-9 win against the Gahanna Lincoln Lions, they are 6-4 and their confidence continues to build as they finish up the year. While the Panthers haven't been the most high-powered offense throughout the season, they have been improving week to week. In the last 2 weeks, they've averaged 31.5, up from their season average of 23.8, which ranks 40th in Division 1. They aren't a top defense in terms of points allowed either, but they have given up less points in recent weeks. While they rank 39th in their division on the season with 22.1 points allowed per game, they've given up an improved average of 11.5 points over their last 2 games.
Olentangy Orange is no stranger to winning recently as they come off of a 7-game winning streak, including last week's 42-24 win against the Westerville South Wildcats. That brings their record to 9-1 as they look to add another notch to the win column. While the Pioneers offense has not been particularly great, ranked 33rd in Division 1 with 26 points per game, they have improved in recent weeks, averaging 30 points over their last 7 contests. The defense hasn't been much better statistically, giving up an average of 11.9 points per game, which ranks 7th in their division.
Prediction: Pickerington North to win (71.46% chance of victory)