Groveport Madison High School football coach Tim Brown saw some positives in his team's 38-14 loss to host Gahanna on Sept. 14 in its OCC-Ohio Division opener, mainly the performance by his defense.
The Cruisers forced four turnovers and limited Gahanna to 105 yards in the first half but trailed 10-0. Gahanna, which improved to 4-0, stretched its lead to 17-0 in the third quarter and 31-7 midway through the fourth quarter and finished with 339 total yards.
Brown said Gahanna was more effective in the second half largely because Groveport's offense struggled to sustain drives, which in turn impacted the defense.
"I thought our defense played outstanding," said Brown, whose team fell to 1-3. "Unfortunately, when you're put right back on the field over and over against good teams, sooner or later you're going to get worn out.
"The defense had a great effort early. We had four turnovers altogether. We just had 11 three-and-outs on offense and you can't put your defense out there that much."
Brown will be looking for a better performance from his offense when Groveport plays host to Grove City in an OCC-Ohio contest on Friday, Sept. 21. The Dawgs lost to Reynoldsburg 26-16 in their league opener Sept. 14 to fall to 1-3.
Grove City was outgained 502-260 in total yards by the Raiders, including 447-107 on the ground.
Dawgs quarterback Cameron Meece rushed 12 times for 42 yards and was 7-for-16 passing for 153 yards and two touchdowns. Wide receiver Justin Waddle had two receptions for 113 yards and a touchdown.
Grove City's lone win came against Westerville North, 41-7 on Aug. 31. North has lost 39 consecutive games.
"We watched Reynoldsburg against (Grove City) and, if you go two (running) backs on them, I think you can exploit some things in the middle," Brown said. "If you go spread like us, we looked at when they played Westerville South (a 42-20 loss on Sept. 7) and what they did. There were some things there we liked.
"Our offense fits against (Grove City's) defense a little better than it did against Gahanna's. (The Dawgs) send four people, maybe five, but they don't try to pressure you too much. Some of the things we like to do, I think we can definitely use against them."
Grove City has won all three meetings with Groveport since the teams became OCC-Ohio rivals in 2008. The Dawgs won 24-21 last year, 40-34 in 2010 and 14-7 in 2008. Grove City did not field a team in 2009 because of a failed levy in South-Western City Schools.
"We've been ahead of them where you'd think we'd win the game," Brown said. "Two years ago, they kind of nipped us at the end.
"We would really love to get this win for many reasons. It's always those ones that have eluded you that you wish you could close and get the game in your favor."
Quarterback Wesley Fearing threw a 73-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Markel Davis in the third quarter against Gahanna before leaving the game with a shoulder injury. His status for the Grove City game was unclear at the start of this week, as he was scheduled to meet with a doctor Sept. 18.
Mecca Swain, who began the season as the team's starting quarterback, stepped back into the role when Fearing left the game against Gahanna and threw a 62-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Isaiah Green in the fourth quarter.
"Wes had a really nice throw (on the touchdown pass) while he was getting hit," Brown said. "That's when he got hurt. Markel, who is a sophomore, made a really good adjustment to the ball, came back and out-jumped the defense.
"Mecca scrambled and threw the ball deep to Green, who is also a sophomore. He made an adjustment, caught the ball and out-ran the defense. We have a lot of young kids who will make big plays and then we turn around and stub our toe because we are young."
Running back Jordan Garrettson injured an ankle against Gahanna and his status for the Grove City game was not immediately known.
According to Brown, among the top defensive performers against Gahanna were safety Tyren Jackson, who had an interception, and linemen Dawuane Smoot and Durrell Wood.
"He did a really nice job at safety for us," Brown said of Jackson. "He's like a quarterback for us out there. He gets everybody lined up and makes adjustments. He was hitting people."
Volleyball team staying competitive
With the rescheduling of a match against Lancaster, the girls volleyball team ended up playing three matches in three days last week, losing to Pickerington North 25-6, 25-7, 25-9 on Sept. 11, Lancaster 25-13, 25-23, 25-12 on Sept. 12 and Pickerington Central 19-25, 25-18, 25-21, 25-19 on Sept. 13.
Coach Kari Lennon was encouraged by her team's performance against Central.
"It was (competitive)," she said, "especially since I was missing my libero (Breanna Keesee), who is hurt right now.
"When you're missing one of your top players in the back row, your team confidence can go down, but the girls played well."
Cassidy Tigner, one of the Cruisers' setters, filled in for Keesee against Central. Outside hitter Madison Wilson had 10 kills against the Tigers and outside hitter Shianne Curry and middle hitter Allison Johnson each had nine.
Groveport was 2-7 overall and 0-6 in the OCC-Ohio before playing Reynoldsburg on Sept. 18.
"One of the big things that we're doing is working on being competitive the entire time we're in a match," Lennon said. "We've shortened one of our practices during the week and we're going to double the intensity during that time.
"We're competitive this year. We have more talent now. They just have to be able to use that from point (No.) one to 25. That's our challenge. It's more mental and believing we can win."