Groveport Madison High School football coach Tim Brown thought his team was heading in the right direction after a 35-34 loss at Lancaster on Sept. 28.
However, he believes the Cruisers took a step backward in a 16-14 loss to visiting Newark on Oct. 5 to drop to 1-6 overall and 0-4 in the OCC-Ohio Division.
"It was very disheartening because we had played hard at Gahanna (in a 38-14 loss on Sept. 14)," Brown said. "Then against Lancaster, the kids (played hard), too. We came out against Newark and didn't play smart.
"We just had way too many penalties and miscues and they just didn't play the way they had been playing. Now we have to get our head straight and get it back together and keep building for the future."
Newark, which improved to 2-5 and 1-3, led 10-0 at halftime before running back Jordan Garrettson scored on a 1-yard run in the third quarter to make it 10-7. Newark answered with a touchdown to make it 16-7 through three quarters. The Cruisers closed the scoring in the fourth quarter with a 1-yard run by quarterback Mecca Swain.
The Cruisers finished with 243 yards rushing, including 133 yards on 25 carries by Garrettson.
"We got it together for a few drives and took the ball down, shoved it down their throat and scored," Brown said. "We had some miscues and penalties that hurt us. Penalties and not executing well kept us from winning the game."
The challenge doesn't get any easier for the Cruisers, who play host to undefeated Pickerington North in an OCC-Ohio game Friday, Oct. 12. The Panthers improved to 7-0 and 4-0 with a 49-27 win over Reynoldsburg on Oct. 5.
North was seventh in the Division I state poll last week.
"(North) has continued to get better," Brown said. "Coach (Tom) Phillips has been doing a good job. They've been around awhile and those guys are on a roll, for sure."
Running back Godwin Igwebuike led North with 131 yards rushing and three touchdowns on 15 carries against Reynoldsburg, and quarterback Mason Olszewski was 7-for-12 passing for 82 yards and three touchdowns and ran for 67 yards on six carries.
Tight end Jake Butt, a University of Michigan recruit, caught seven passes for 93 yards and three touchdowns as the Panthers amassed 437 total yards while limiting Reynoldsburg to 180.
"We have a lot of young kids," Brown said. "Hopefully, they'll continue to realize that we have to keep trying and keep getting better. We're going to coach them and give them the best game plan we can.
"We talk to the players every day. We only have six seniors who are actually starting, so we talk to the young ones about these being growing pains and that we're building for the future. They're going to get better."
Boys golfers end season at sectional
The boys golf team shot a 481 to finish 13th in the 13-team Division I sectional tournament Oct. 2 at Granville Golf Course behind champion Pickerington North (294).
The top four teams and top four individuals not on a qualifying team advanced to the district tournament Oct. 9 at Apple Valley.
Upper Arlington (295), St. Charles (313) and Mount Vernon (316) also advanced to district from the sectional site and Thomas Worthington's Curtis Salmans secured the final individual district-qualifying spot with a 77.
Senior Clint Miller led the Cruisers with an 89. Also competing were junior Trent Kopala (90) and freshmen Connor Lindsay (129) and Gavin Wise (173).
"We thought 77 was a good number to get out," coach Joe Rinkes said. "We were hoping Clint and Trent could get in that range. We thought 77 or 78 was going to be right there and it turned out a 77 made it.
"Things have to fall into place (to advance to district). With a lot of pressure that you add and the conditions, you really have to be on your game."
On the day of the sectional, the weather was cool and the course was wet.
"I went in there thinking it would be a pretty good day," Kopala said. "I usually like playing in wet conditions. I hit my first drive great and thought it would be a good day, but I couldn't find it on the greens. I don't think I've ever putted so badly in my entire life. If I could've just putt (better), I would've shot a better score."
Groveport didn't compete as a team in the four-round OCC-Ohio tournament this season. North won the league championship with a 24-0 record, as Lancaster (18-6), Gahanna (17-7), Grove City (12-12), Reynoldsburg (9-15), Newark (2-22) and Pickerington Central (2-22) rounded out the top seven.
"It was challenging going into (OCC-Ohio) matches with two guys and then trying to prep the other two (Lindsay and Wise) to get ready for sectionals," Rinkes said. "There were several duals that the freshmen played, but those were only nine holes.
"With sectionals being 18 holes, it was going to be an eye-opener for them. We spent a lot of time on the (driving) range. Looking from the beginning of the season to the end of the season, I can honestly say they did improve."
The Cruisers went 2-6 in dual matches against non-league opponents.
"It was tough because you have the rest of the teams (in the OCC-Ohio) having five (varsity players) with junior varsity teams and some even have freshman teams," Miller said. "We were young this year and building for the future."
According to Rinkes, Miller and Kopala both finished the season with an 86-stroke average over 18 holes.
"Clint played on the team my first year coaching (when he was) a freshman," Rinkes said. "He continually got better. As he became an upperclassman, he started to emerge more as a leader. He really did a nice job this year with bringing those younger kids along and helping them out with things he has learned over the years.
"He was a tremendous asset to our golf program and a tremendous kid in general."
Rinkes expects Kopala to lead the team next season.
"He's a hard worker, he takes his game seriously and he's improved 100 percent since he came out as a sophomore," Rinkes said. "We're really looking forward to him lowering his scores and taking over that leadership role that Clint had. Trent's already started to emerge as a leader. You can see him helping the younger kids."