In an all-or-nothing decision, Groveport Madison High School football coach Tim Brown opted to go for the win against host Lancaster in the waning seconds of an OCC-Ohio Division game Sept. 28.
Unfortunately for the Cruisers, the gamble didn't pay off and they lost 35-34 to fall to 1-5 overall and 0-3 in the OCC-Ohio.
With two seconds remaining, Groveport capped a long drive with a 1-yard touchdown run by running back Jalen Weems. Instead of attempting the extra point and force overtime, Brown decided to go for the two-point conversion.
On the conversion attempt, quarterback Mecca Swain was stopped short of the goal line.
"It was the right decision at the time," Brown said. "We had just gone 80 yards in 18 plays and they hadn't stopped us. We converted three fourth downs on that drive. There was no reason to think they'd stop us then."
Groveport trailed by 14 points three times against Lancaster, which improved to 2-4 and 1-2.
"The kids brought us back twice and we ran the football exceptionally well," said Brown, whose team trailed 14-0 in the first quarter, 21-7 in the second quarter and 35-21 in the third quarter. "We changed it up on offense and put four of our five experienced seniors out there. They did a fantastic job. We had more offense in that game than we've had in any game yet."
Weems rushed for 146 yards and three touchdowns on 14 carries, Swain had 11 carries for 138 yards and a touchdown and running back Jordan Garrettson ran for 79 yards and a score on 14 carries.
Weems scored on a 69-yard run in the first quarter and Swain had a 96-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.
"There was great blocking," Brown said. "Guys did what we asked them to do. We had some veteran players brought over from defense. We had five players who probably played 95 to 98 percent of the plays."
Fatigue played a role in Brown's decision to go for the win.
"We had two seconds left on the clock," he said. "You're on the road, and old coaching manuals will tell you that on the road you have to go for the kill. I've done it many times over the last 10 years and the percentage will tell you it's pretty high."
The Cruisers, who outgained Lancaster 379-369 in total yards and finished with 353 yards rushing, will look to end their three-game losing streak when they play host to Newark in an OCC-Ohio contest Friday, Oct. 5.
The Wildcats lost to host Grove City 34-14 on Sept. 28 to fall to 1-5 and 0-3. They also have lost three in a row.
Quarterback Grant Russell scored both of Newark's touchdowns against Grove City on a pair of 1-yard runs.
"Talking to other coaches, they're a lot more athletic than you might think," Brown said of Newark. "They have a 6-foot-4, 195-pound quarterback (Russell) who can throw the ball around well.
"They were tied 7-7 against Grove City and were close to scoring in the second quarter. They were right in the game and made a few mistakes from there. I think they're a lot more talented than their record shows."
Brown is hoping some players who have been sidelined because of injury return to the lineup this week, allowing him to decrease the playing time of defensive players who have seen action on both sides of the ball in recent games.
"Our guys are coming off a nice game and realize that we've re-energized our offense," Brown said. "We'll get some guys back we haven't had since the first couple weeks on offense, which will get some guys a chance to go back to playing just defense."
Girls soccer team showing improvement
The girls soccer team was 2-9-1 overall and 1-4 in the OCC-Ohio before playing Pickerington Central on Oct. 2.
The Cruisers defeated visiting Teays Valley 2-0 on Sept. 29 behind goals by Sarah Landuyt and Kisha Lane.
Through 12 games, junior midfielder Steph Siwicki and senior forward Courtney Husch were tied for the team lead in goals with three apiece.
"We've grown in our basic soccer knowledge," coach Andy Ling said. "There's improvement in that we're making fewer mental mistakes.
"The big improvement is really how hard we've played. The girls have committed to being in better shape, so we've conditioned really well through the season. We're concentrating on working harder. Each girl has really stepped up individually to make an effort to make themselves better."
Groveport's other win through 12 games was 2-1 over Newark on Sept. 18. In that contest, the Cruisers scored twice in the final 15 minutes, including the winner by Siwicki with 11 seconds left.
"(The players) had worked hard and we had gone through a rough stretch of tough games before that," Ling said. "We had seen improvement and the hard work was paying off.
"One thing we don't do is give up. They played through the last second of the game, literally. We were able to squeak out the game (against Newark) at the end."
Ling points toward the play of Husch as a "leader on and off the field" as being vital to the team's improvement.
"She makes my job as coach easier because I can depend on her," he said. "She's almost a coach on the field."
Ling also commended the play of sophomore defender Erin Hale.