In what was a rebuilding year for the Groveport Madison High School football team turned out to be Tim Brown's final season as coach.
The Cruisers, who had 10 seniors on their roster but only five were starters, lost their final seven games and finished 1-9 overall.
Groveport, whose went 0-7 in the OCC-Ohio Division to finish eighth, behind co-champions Pickerington North (6-1) and Pickerington Central (6-1) as well as Reynoldsburg (5-2), Gahanna (4-3), Grove City (4-3), Lancaster (2-5) and Newark (1-6).
"A lot of young guys got experience that they never would've gotten had we had a bigger senior class," said Brown, who turned in his resignation Oct. 29, three days after the Cruisers concluded the season with a 28-0 loss to Reynoldsburg.
"You have a year of Friday night, OCC experience that will make you tougher. You have to understand how hard it is to prepare for that grind and, coming toward the end of the season, the guys were really excited about getting in the weight room (in the offseason). They see what's happening."
Brown coached Groveport for 10 seasons, compiling a 38-64 record, including a 1-1 mark in the postseason. The Cruisers qualified for the Division I, Region playoffs in 2007, defeating Brookhaven 41-27 in the first round before losing to Hilliard Darby 16-3 in a regional semifinal to finish 8-4.
Groveport also finished with a winning record in 2009 and 2010, going 6-4 both seasons.
"Tim came in and just did a great job," athletics director Steve Petros said. "Probably the biggest impression he made early on was how serious he was with academics. There were a lot of examples of Tim personally helping struggling kids, things people didn't see. Tim Brown is good for kids and that's the best I can say for him."
Brown decided it was time to step away from football for a while.
"I preach to the kids that it's God, family, grades and football, and I see that I've been putting football first a lot of the time in the last 10 years," he said. "It's very important and I'd assume I'll be involved in football again, but for right now, it's time to focus on other things."
The seniors include 6-foot-4, 235-pound defensive lineman Dawuane Smoot and 6-3, 315-pound offensive and defensive lineman Durrel Wood, who have verbally committed to the University of Illinois and Ohio University, respectively.
Smoot was named first-team all-league and second-team all-district and Wood was second-team all-league and all-district on offense.
"They're as good as anyone in the league," Brown said. "They played against tough guys and played well. Dawuane is going to Illinois and I still have (college coaches) trying to get him to switch his commitment.
"Durrel played on both sides of the ball for us and is a tough, athletic kid. He can move for as big as he is and has long arms. ... We're not doing too terrible against Reynoldsburg and Durrel gets a high-ankle injury and that was it. We couldn't pass the ball or run the ball (after that). He was that important."
The other senior starters were linebackers Ben Adkins and James Fout and offensive lineman Thomas Workman. Adkins was second-team all-league.
Among those expected to return are juniors Isaac England (P), Tyren Jackson (DB), Alec Knode (LB), Raymel Medley (DB), Austin Newman (QB), Cameron Oshodi (OL), Mecca Swain (QB/RB/WR), Jalen Weems (RB) and Keilyn Williamson (OL) and sophomores Markel Davis (WR), Wes Fearing (QB) and Jordan Garrettson (RB).
Swain, Newman and Fearing all saw time at quarterback, with Swain finishing with 1,100 all-purpose yards and Fearing finishing with 450 yards passing and 150 yards rushing. Newman was expected to enter the season as the starter, but he missed the first eight games with a broken foot and a broken finger.
Davis had a team-high 27 catches for 439 yards and two touchdowns and Garrettson led the team with 738 yards rushing on 166 carries and scored six touchdowns.
Jackson was special mention all-league and Swain was honorable mention all-league.
Groveport's only victory came against Walnut Ridge, 21-20 on Sept. 7. Two of the Cruisers' losses were by a total of three points, 35-34 to Lancaster on Sept. 28 and 16-14 to Newark on Oct. 5.
Against Lancaster, Weems scored on a 1-yard run with two seconds remaining to cut the Cruisers' deficit to 35-34. Instead of attempting the extra point to force overtime, Brown opted to go for the win, only to see Swain get stopped short of the goal line on the two-point conversion attempt.
"We had never really played well (at Lancaster), but we had a chance to win the ballgame," Brown said.
"We went on an 18-play drive, averaging about 4 yards a carry on that drive and decided to go for two.
"We didn't quite run the play that was called, but the memorable moment was that we had made some changes and (the players) went down and got the job done."
According to Petros, the search for Browns' successor will begin in the next few weeks.
"We really want somebody who is a fan of Groveport Madison and a fan of all our programs who wants to see success all the way through," Petros said.
"We want somebody who wants to build a good program but wants to do it the right way. You have to be concerned with kids on and off the field, with their academics. We want a coach who can get the most out of our kids."