The Groveport Madison High School football team made progress between the first and second weeks of the season but have no wins to show for it.
The Cruisers are hoping that changes when they play host to unbeaten Licking Heights on Friday, Sept. 13.
"Our kids understand the process we're in, changing coaches and systems and trying to build this program back up," first-year coach Bryan Schoonover said. "We took some steps and made some progress. The mistakes we made are fixable and we're getting back to work.
"They are working hard and not making excuses and they're great kids. I can't say enough good things about them and their approach thus far."
Groveport lost to Westerville South 48-20 in its opener Aug. 30 and fell to 0-2 with a 28-6 loss to Walnut Ridge on Sept. 6.
The Cruisers led Walnut Ridge 6-0 at halftime behind an 87-yard touchdown run by tailback Mecca Swain in the second quarter. The Scots went ahead 7-6 in the third quarter and scored three touchdowns in the fourth quarter, including a 100-yard interception return by cornerback Brandon Paschal on the game's final play.
Swain finished with 126 yards rushing against Walnut Ridge and has scored two of the Cruisers' four touchdowns. Against South, Swain scored on a 34-yard run, wide receiver Markell Davis scored on a 55-yard pass from quarterback Austin Newman and linebacker DeShawn Sowell scored on a fumble recovery in the end zone.
"Mecca Swain has been solid and Markel Davis has made some big plays for us," Schoonover said. "They are both great athletes and we'll need them to continue to make plays for us."
Although Walnut Ridge isn't as explosive offensively as South, Schoonover saw improved play from his defense against the Scots.
"I was pleased with the way our defense responded," he said. "We had guys making good plays and everyone seemed to play much better. I thought Tyren Jackson was tough at safety and Dayrel Billingsley, a first-year player for us, did real well at cornerback."
Groveport's defense had allowed 525 total yards, including 292 passing, against South.
"We're going to get better and I expect us to be in a dogfight against Licking Heights this week," Schoonover said. "They're 2-0 and they were a (Division II) playoff team last year, so they know how to win. They run downhill from double tight ends in a stacked I (formation) and they're well coached. Their line comes off the ball hard.
"Defensively, they have a terrific end (Aaron Tiller, 6-foot-1, 235 pounds) who stands out on film. They have a solid line in their 4-4 and the linebackers and secondary can run."
Licking Heights beat Mifflin 40-6 in its opener Aug. 30 and defeated Hamilton Township 21-13 on Sept. 6.
The Hornets' offense is led by tailback Kendall Bradley, fullback John Neary and quarterback Adrian Myrthil. Against Hamilton Township, Bradley had 119 yards rushing and scored two touchdowns, including a 50-yard run with 1 minute, 47 seconds remaining, and Neary rushed for 136 yards.
Licking Heights controlled the clock for much of the game, limiting Hamilton Township to one possession in the third quarter.
In addition to Tiller, key players on defense for the Hornets include Doug Benniefield and Neary at linebacker and linemen Cameron Claborn and Mike Hopewell.
Girls soccer team seeking more offense
The girls soccer team has been struggling to score goals.
Groveport, which was 1-5 overall and 0-2 in the OCC-Ohio Division before playing Lancaster on Sept. 10, opened Aug. 20 with a 4-2 over Westland, as forward Stephanie Siwicki scored all four goals and goalkeeper Brooke Coyer made 25 saves.
"We were able to catch Westland pushing up and our midfielders did a nice job winning balls and punching some through balls to Siwicki to give her some good (scoring) chances and she finished," coach Mark Coyer said. "Our midfielders recognized what was happening and we took advantage of that."
Groveport scored only one goal over its next five games, however. The Cruisers were shut out in losses to Columbus School for Girls (4-0 on Aug. 22), Gahanna (8-0 on Aug. 27), Grove City (10-0 on Sept. 3) and Coshocton (1-0 on Sept. 7) and lost to Canal Winchester 5-1 on Sept. 5, getting a goal from defender Lily Coyer.
"Against Gahanna and Grove City, we really struggled to get the ball out of our zone," coach Coyer said. "We started to panic and just boot it out of there to give the defense a breather. We weren't being patient (with our) passing and our midfielders weren't creating open spaces for the back line to get the ball to. It was frustrating. We didn't score against Coshocton, but we played our best game of the season.
"The whole team needs to improve. We have put some nice combinations together at times, but haven't been able to sustain it. We have a stretch of games where we think we can be competitive coming up. We're improving our fundamentals game by game, but we need to show more progression."
Boys soccer team struggling to score
Goals also have been difficult to come by for the boys soccer team, which was shut out in its first three games before losing to Coshocton 5-2 on Sept. 7.
Groveport, which was 0-4 overall and 0-2 in the OCC-Ohio before playing Lancaster on Sept. 10, was outscored 28-2 in its first four contests.
"We don't have the talent or depth to be competitive with a lot of these teams, but our sole focus was to continue the program and develop the young kids," coach Ron Jones said. "We're starting three or four freshmen out of necessity because we had our top seven players move out to play elsewhere this year. (The freshmen are) gaining a lot of good playing time and invaluable minutes."
The Cruisers, who have four seniors on their roster, lost to Canal Winchester 8-0 in their opener Aug. 20 before dropping league games to Gahanna (4-0 on Aug. 27) and Grove City (11-0 on Sept. 3).
"Some of these teams have more coaches than we do seniors," Jones said. "But the boys are hustling, trying hard and playing hard, and they're having fun."
Scoring against Coshocton were midfielder Jordan Spurling and forward Nick Gboe.
Girls tennis team notches first win
The girls tennis team posted its first victory, beating Hamilton Township 5-0 on Sept. 4.
Winning against the Rangers were Lindsey Ferrin at first singles (4-6, 6-4, 6-4), Jordan Walton at second singles (7-6, 6-1), Kaysea Smith at third singles (7-5, 6-3), Alex Goodwin and Elise Goodwin at first doubles (6-7, 6-4, 6-1) and Jordan Gilmore and Cheyanne Morris at second doubles (6-0, 6-1).
The Cruisers, who lost to Whetstone 4-1 on Sept. 5, were 1-8 overall before playing Canal Winchester on Sept. 9 and 0-5 in the OCC-Ohio before facing Newark on Sept. 10. They conclude league play Thursday, Sept. 12, at home against Pickerington North.