This week, the battle between the Elder Panthers and the Pickerington Central Tigers is one of the most competitive matchups we've seen in a long time in terms of state championship games. The Panthers come into the game projected to win by a score of 27-23 as the Tigers look to prove they are, indeed, the best team in the state for Division 1. The playoffs are the best time of the year but also come with a great deal of drama as many powerhouses will even see their seasons cut short. Each week, it's do or die and, after this week is complete, half of the current playoff teams will be eliminated. Pickerington Central comes in as Division 1's 4th-ranked team. Elder comes in ranked 7th. A new matchup on the schedule for each team, Saturday's game is a chance for each to test its skills and strategies against an unfamiliar opponent. Usually, matchups from the previous year are used in developing a strategy for upcoming games. For these two, no such opportunity will be afforded.
Looking to build upon their 10-game winning streak, Pickerington Central comes into the week at 13-1. After their 28-21 win against the Mentor Cardinals, they are confident in their ability to finish strong. The Tigers offense is the 14th-ranked offense in Division 1, scoring an average of 31.5 points per game over the course of the season. In their last 2 games, however, they've cooled off, averaging 25.5 points per game. While their defense has given up more points than usual in recent weeks, they deserve every bit as much of the credit for this season's successes as the offense. Over the course of the season, they've given up an average of 13.3 points per game, which ranks 9th in their division.
For Elder, Saturday is a chance to expand on a 4-game winning streak after their 31-24 win against the Springfield Wildcats brought their record to 12-2. In recent weeks, the Panthers haven't been quite as explosive on offense but they remain the 4th-ranked offense in Division 1, scoring an average of 36.6 points per game. On defense, they rank 45th in their division, giving up an average of 24.6 points per game.
Prediction: Elder to win (71.89% chance of victory)