The Groveport Madison High School football team travels to Newark on Friday, Oct. 11, for a battle between of two of the state's three winless teams in Division I.
The Cruisers and Wildcats are both 0-6 overall and 0-3 in the OCC-Ohio Division. Massillon Perry also is 0-6.
Another Division I team, Springfield, is 1-5 but has yet to win on the field. Springfield lost to Trotwood-Madison 42-8 in its opener Aug. 30, but the Rams later had to forfeit the win for using an ineligible player.
"Newark has a good program that has struggled in recent years, but I think (coach) Gregg Forsythe has the right system in place for them and they'll eventually get back to where they used to be," coach Bryan Schoonover said. "They've got a quarterback in Grant Russell who has been in their program for four years and can make any throw on the field."
Led by Russell and junior wide receiver Darius Shackleford, Newark averaged 25 points through three games, but that average has dropped to 13.7 the past three weeks, as the Wildcats totaled 17 points in those contests. Contributing to the drop in offensive production was the loss of senior wide receiver Shawn Dillon to a season-ending leg injury.
Groveport is averaging 8.8 points and allowing an average of 26.3. Newark is giving up an average of 44 points and has not allowed fewer than 32.
"Their defense may be struggling, but until we can make things happen offensively, we'll have trouble moving the ball against anyone," Schoonover said. "Newark has moved the ball on everyone, even when they've had trouble scoring. They're a lot like us in the fact they're moving the ball but not scoring. We're not sustaining drives.
"Our problem has been the negative plays. A penalty or negative-yardage play has really crippled our offense. We've had a lot of penalties that have been drive-killers."
Groveport and Newark have played two common opponents thus far this season in Gahanna and Grove City. The Cruisers lost to Gahanna 20-13 on Sept. 20 while Newark fell to the Lions 48-10 on Sept. 27, and the Cruisers lost to Grove City 55-0 on Sept. 27 while the Wildcats lost to the Dawgs 48-7 on Oct. 4.
Groveport is coming off a 20-14 loss to Lancaster on Oct. 4. The contest marked its third loss by seven points or fewer this season.
"I thought Phillip Austin and Jacob Dalton played very well on the defensive line and (safety) Raymel Medley returned a fumble (85 yards) for a touchdown," Schoonover said of his defense's performance against Lancaster. "We have a youth movement up front defensively, and I thought freshmen (linebacker) Cory Newman and (nose guard) Dejuan McClure played well."
Tennis team ends season at sectional
The girls tennis team ended its season in the Division I sectional tournament held Oct. 3 and 5 at Pickerington Central.
The coaching career of Doug Ewart also is ending. He plans to retire after 35 years of service after coaching the boys team in the spring.
"I was very happy with the girls' effort (at sectional) and I couldn't have asked for a better season to go out on than the one these girls gave me this season," said Ewart, whose team finished 5-11 overall and 0-7 in the OCC-Ohio. "I don't measure success by wins and losses, but by how the team improves, how the team molds and how the girls grow as human beings. In that aspect, this was a fantastic season because I had a great group.
"They never questioned what we were trying to do as a team or what I had them do as individuals. They had fun but worked hard at the same time and they had great senior leaders."
The top four finishers in singles or doubles at sectional advanced to district Friday, Oct. 11, and Saturday, Oct. 12, at Hilliard Davidson.
In singles, junior Jordan Gilmore defeated Worthington Kilbourne's Blaire Morrison 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 in the first round before losing to Dublin Coffman's Victoria Fan 6-0, 6-0 in the second round, and seniors Hannah Roach and Kaysea Smith both lost in play-in matches.
"Jordan had a great year and got used to winning and she wasn't ready for the year to end," Ewart said. "She played an amazing match (against Morrison). She won every big point and her perseverance and determination were evident. I was impressed."
In doubles, junior Cheyanne Morris and senior Lindsey Ferrin defeated Hartley's Abby Gold and Jalissa Howard 6-1, 6-0 in the first round before losing 6-0, 6-0 to Coffman's Annie Yang and Jessica Flynn in the second round.
Also in doubles, senior Alex Goodwin and junior Elise Goodwin lost in the first round.
"I was very happy for Morris and Ferrin to gain experience and get a win," Ewart said. "I also couldn't be more proud of the way the Goodwin sisters played and how they represented Groveport all year. They're class kids and they handled everything so well all season. Alex was an amazing leader."
Groveport scored 16 points in the eighth-place OCC tournament Sept. 25 to tie Westerville North for first, ahead of host Central Crossing (13) and Franklin Heights (5).
"We're going to miss our four seniors, but I think there's a good nucleus coming back," Ewart said. "I'm very satisfied to finish like this. It was a great group. The kids did more for me than I did for them throughout the years. We have great kids in the school district and I always seem to get the cream of the crop playing tennis."
Kopala fires 78 at boys sectional
Trent Kopala represented Groveport in the Division I boys golf sectional tournament Oct. 1 at Turnberry.
The senior shot a 78 to finish four strokes behind the final two district qualifiers, Pickerington Central's Rodney Howell (74) and Westerville North's Ryan Pannell (74). Granville's Nick Contini (72) also advanced as an individual.
The district tournament was held Oct. 8 at Apple Valley.
Groveport did not compete as a team this season.