The Groveport Madison High School football team got a big push from its offensive line to earn its first victory Oct. 11, beating Newark 52-35 in an OCC-Ohio Division game to end a 13-game losing streak.
Entering the contest, the Cruisers and Wildcats were two of three winless teams in Division I, with Massillon Perry being the other. The previous win for Groveport, which improved to 1-6 overall and 1-3 in the OCC-Ohio, had come in week three of last season, when it defeated Walnut Ridge 21-20.
The Cruisers extended Newark's losing streak to 10 games. The Wildcats, who dropped to 0-7 and 0-4, haven't won since beating Groveport 16-14 in week seven last season.
The Cruisers' point total against Newark in this year's matchup was their highest since a 55-34 win over Marysville in week two of the 2009 season, a span of 45 games. It also represented the most points allowed by the Wildcats this season and was one point fewer than what Groveport had scored in its first six games combined.
The Cruisers' previous season-high in points scored had come in a 48-20 loss to Westerville South in the season opener Aug. 30. The game against South marked only the second time this season that Groveport has scored more than 14 points.
Newark had entered the game allowing an average of 44 points.
Thanks in large part to its offensive line, Groveport amassed 564 yards rushing. Four Cruisers -- quarterback Mecca Swain (12 carries for 185 yards), fullback Dalonte Smith (16 carries for 124 yards), wingback Tristen Gabriel (9 carries for 119 yards) and tailback Tyren Jackson (10 carries for 106 yards) -- rushed for more than 100 yards and scored two touchdowns apiece. The Cruisers did not complete a pass.
"I didn't realize we ran for that many yards and I can't recall ever being involved in a game where one team had four guys over 100 yards rushing," coach Bryan Schoonover said. "When I was at Lancaster, I know we had three guys do it once.
"That just tells you how well our offensive line played. It speaks for itself. Those guys up there -- (guard) Kevin Schrader, (guard) Cameron Oshodi, (tackle) Marshall Buck, (tackle) Matt Perdue and (center) Malcolm Solack -- were fantastic, and our tight end Terric Bryant blocked well, too."
The Cruisers trailed 21-20 at halftime, but they scored on their first two possessions of the second half and outscored Newark 20-8 in the third quarter to take a 40-29 advantage into the fourth quarter.
Newark quarterback Grant Russell threw three touchdown passes (10, 9 and 15 yards) to wide receiver Darius Shackleford in the first half.
"We made some adjustments in the second half and our defense understood the changes and tried not to do too much," Schoonover said. "I think they were overwhelmed in the first half. We played a very good third quarter and got a two- or three-score lead. We kept on schedule and kept their offense off the field. To say the kids were excited is a bold understatement. They finally were rewarded for their work and dedication. It's great after losing three games by a touchdown or less."
Groveport, which had only one turnover and did not punt against Newark, travels to Pickerington North on Friday, Oct. 18, for an OCC-Ohio game. The Panthers, who were ranked 11th in the Division I state poll last week, improved to 7-0 overall and 4-0 in the league with a 20-3 win over Reynoldsburg on Oct. 11.
"Any team that can beat Pickerington Central like that (49-14 on Oct. 4) is very special and talented," Schoonover said of North. "Coach (Tom) Phillips does things right over there, and he's got big, athletic kids. They're the real deal and it'll be a big task."
Girls soccer team facing tough draw
The girls soccer team will begin play in the Division I district tournament Thursday, Oct. 17, at second-seeded Pickerington North.
Both teams had first-round byes.
Groveport, which is seeded 36th of 40 teams in the district, lost to the Panthers 6-0 in an OCC-Ohio game Sept. 24.
"We had four options on the bracket," coach Mark Coyer said. "We could've played at (top-seeded) Dublin Coffman or (fourth-seeded) Olentangy Liberty in the second round or (11th-seeded) Olentangy Orange in the first round. I chose Pickerington North because it's closer, the girls get home on a school night a lot earlier and we save the parents gas money and time they don't have to spend going to Dublin or Olentangy."
Groveport enters the postseason 3-11-1 overall and North is 14-0-1.
The second-round winner will play 20th-seeded Watkins Memorial, 25th-seeded Hilliard Darby or 28th-seeded Lancaster in a district semifinal Tuesday, Oct. 22, at the site of the higher seed.
The Cruisers lost to Lancaster 5-0 on Sept. 10 in a league game but have not played Watkins Memorial or Darby this year.
Groveport snapped a three-game losing streak by beating Madison Christian 6-0 in the regular-season finale Oct. 10. It was outscored 18-0 during the skid, which began with the loss to North, followed by league losses to Pickerington Central (5-0 on Oct. 1) and Reynoldsburg (7-0 on Oct. 8).
Against Madison Christian, forward Stephanie Siwicki had three goals and forward Paige Dersom and midfielders Ariel Kelber and Jaida Singratsomboune each scored one.
"It was an awesome senior night because two of our four seniors scored," Coyer said. "We moved Paige up top to give her a chance and she scored and Ariel got her first career goal. Our other seniors, (defender) Kayla Maynard and (forward) Chelsea Johnson, played well, too."
The Cruisers finished 0-7 in the OCC-Ohio to place eighth, behind North (7-0), Grove City and Central (both 5-2), Gahanna (4-2-1), Reynoldsburg (3-3-1), Lancaster (2-5) and Newark (1-6).
Boys soccer team earns first win
The boys soccer team broke through for its first victory of the season in its regular-season finale, beating Madison Christian 4-0 on Oct. 10.
Forward Mohammed Al-Harbi had two goals and forward Nick Gboe and midfielder Seth Baugus each scored one for the Cruisers, who improved to 1-11-2 overall.
According to coach Tom Snyder, defenders Evan Mehl and Kris Henry turned in strong performances in front of goalkeeper Jacob Weakley, who had six saves.
"It was a great way to finish the (regular) season, getting the first win on senior night," Snyder said. "The boys were very excited and every one of them played for the seniors. It was special in a tough season that they got to ring the victory bell for the first time."
Seeded 45th, Groveport opens the Division I district tournament in the second round Saturday, Oct. 19, at 10th-seeded Thomas Worthington, which is 10-5-1. Both teams had a first-round bye.
The Cruisers did not play the Cardinals during the regular season.
The second-round winner will play ninth-seeded Westerville Central, 33rd-seeded Ham-ilton Township or 36th-seeded Dresden Tri-Valley in a district semifinal Wednesday, Oct. 23, at the site of the higher seed.
The Cruisers did not play any of potential opponents in the regular season.
"Considering we had the last pick, it was a good draw in that we don't have to play a top-three seed," Snyder said. "I don't know how that happened, but Thomas is seeded 10th and it will take something very, very special to beat them."
Groveport finished 0-5-2 in the OCC-Ohio to place seventh, behind Gahanna (7-0), Grove City (5-1-1), Pickerington North (4-1-2), Reynoldsburg (4-3), Lancaster (3-4) and Pickerington Central (1-4-2) and ahead of Newark (0-6-1).
The Cruisers tied Central at 2 on Oct. 1 and played Newark to a scoreless tie Sept. 17.
Volleyball team wins regular-season finale
The girls volleyball team opened the postseason Oct. 15 against seventh-seeded Lancaster in the first round of the Division I district tournament.
Groveport, which is seeded 32nd of 46 teams in the district, closed the regular season with a 20-25, 25-17, 25-15, 26-24 win over Reynoldsburg on Oct. 10 to improve to 7-15 overall and finish 2-12 in the OCC-Ohio.
The Cruisers' other league win also came against the Raiders, 27-25, 25-22, 27-25 on Sept. 17.
"Going 7-15 isn't real bad because I've seen the girls learn, grow and improve," coach Brook Incorvaia said. "The girls have been fantastic. This past week has given us some excitement because we took Pickerington Central to five games before losing (Oct. 8). We've been playing well."
Incorvaia was hoping that his team's recent play would carry over to the postseason. The first-round winner will play host to 35th-seeded Reynoldsburg in the second round Thursday, Oct. 17, with that winner facing ninth-seeded Hilliard Davidson, 18th-seeded Watterson or 24th-seeded Newark in a district semifinal Wednesday, Oct. 23, at Whitehall.
The semifinal winner likely will face third-seeded Hilliard Bradley in a district final Oct. 26 at Whitehall.
"I'd like the chance to play Reynoldsburg a third time, but Lancaster swept us in the league (by scores of 23-25, 25-9, 25-14, 25-17 on Sept. 3 and 25-15, 25-15, 25-17 on Sept. 26), although we're playing much better right now."
Groveport did not play Davidson or Watterson during the regular season, but it lost both league matches against Newark, including 21-25, 25-12, 25-14, 25-18 on Oct. 1.
"We've gotten a spark from freshman (outside hitter) Kendra Fuller," Incorvaia said. "She moved the floor well and really covered (against Reynoldsburg). Madison Wilson, at outside hitter, has remained our most consistent player and Amanda Arrowood has really stepped up in the middle the past two matches, and that's made a big difference."