The Groveport Madison High School football team will be looking to end the season on a winning note when it travels to Reynoldsburg on Friday, Nov. 1.
The Cruisers dropped to 1-8 overall and 1-5 in the OCC-Ohio Division with a 41-14 loss to Pickerington Central on Oct. 25. That same night, Reynoldsburg defeated Newark 43-13 to improve to 4-5 and 2-4.
Groveport's win came against Newark, 52-35 on Oct. 11.
"Everyone, regardless of record, wants to win their final game," coach Bryan Schoonover said. "Winning the last game is great for the seniors and important for the morale of the younger kids that will be coming back. It gets them motivated and energized to get back to work in the weight room and things like that.
"But like I said, that's the mentality of every team. It's important for Reynoldsburg, just like it is to us, so it's a matter of execution because nobody's going to give you anything."
Comparing their wins over Newark, Reynoldsburg rushed for 332 yards on 64 carries while Groveport amassed 564 on the ground, with four Cruisers rushing for more than 100 yards and scoring two touchdowns apiece.
"But really, we were in a shootout against Newark until we pulled away in the fourth quarter, whereas Reynoldsburg controlled Newark from the start," Schoonover said. "Reynoldsburg has a powerful offensive line and a couple of good backs. Plus, they've switched quarterbacks and (Conner McCloud) looks to be throwing it well. They've got big, athletic kids outside (who) they can get the ball to and they run the ball well off tackle. They can stretch it wide and hit you with counters. They've got a lot of weapons."
The Raiders' defense sacked Newark quarterback Grant Russell six times and forced five turnovers.
"They are a very good team and their record doesn't reflect the type of talent the truly have," Schoonover said. "We'll have to play extremely well to win. We've got to stop the run, which is where we struggled (Oct. 25) against Pickerington Central. We tackled poorly, we struggled on first-down plays offensively and we had special teams mistakes. It's tough to beat anyone when you have that combination, but we've got 16 seniors who want to go out with a win and we're going to work hard all week preparing to do that."
Against Central, running back Tyren Jackson scored on a 16-yard run in the third quarter and caught a 7-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Austin Newman in the fourth quarter.
Boys soccer team gained experience
The boys soccer team is expected to return seven regular starters and its previous coach, Deke Scott, next season.
Groveport finished 1-12-2 overall this season after losing to 10th-seeded Thomas Worthington 5-1 in the second round of the Division I district tournament Oct. 19. The Cruisers were seeded 45th and had a first-round bye.
A pair of parents guided the team after a levy failure last May forced the school district to fund one boys and one girls sport per season this school year. Football and girls volleyball were funded for the fall, which prompted Scott, who guided the Cruisers to an 8-8-1 record last season, to step down as coach last spring.
Ron Jones served as a volunteer coach in the first half of the season before being replaced by Tom Snyder, who had been a volunteer coach for the junior varsity.
"We'll be a whole new team next season with all the starters we'll have back and with Deke taking over," Snyder said. "He's a great coach with a great understanding of the game who gets the most out of his team."
The Cruisers posted their only victory in their regular-season finale, beating Madison Christian 4-0 on Oct. 10. They went 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).
Groveport loses five seniors, including three starters in Jacob Jones (midfielder), Benny Lam (forward/midfielder) and Nate Parsons (defender). The other seniors are Hiroki Barker (defender) and Austin Whitaker (defender).
"There wasn't a whole lot of experience among them, but they played hard and never quit and that rubbed off on everyone," Snyder said. "Jones was hurt last year and didn't play and Lam was the only one who played all four years. Parsons and Barker were first-year varsity players and Whitaker was playing soccer for the first time."
The starters expected to return are juniors Mohammed Al-Harbi (forward), Kris Henry (defender), Evan Mehl (defender), Blake Snyder (midfielder), Jordan Spurling (midfielder) and Jacob Weakley (goalkeeper) and sophomore Sam Baugus (midfielder).
Also expected back are sophomore Brandon Byers (defender) and freshmen Bradley Byers (defender), Nick Gboe (forward), Kenny Pettay (midfielder), Dylan Snyder (defender) and Robbie Sithixay (defender).
Henry was named first-team all-league. Snyder was second-team all-league and Gboe was honorable mention.
"The boys played with heart and their record doesn't reflect it," coach Snyder said. "They stuck together, especially the seniors, and helped welcome me as a new coach in the middle of the season. They showed great pride.
"What stood out to me was the lesson they learned. The parental support was great and without that, things could've fallen apart. When the boys had a car wash and made over $1,000 that day, they learned the community and its leaders weren't against them. It was us versus them in the boys' eyes at the start. But that day, they learned that they were supported by the community and people weren't turning their backs on the boys or our youth. They weren't being pushed aside. It was an important lesson to learn."
Girls volleyball coach pleased with progress
The girls volleyball team is expected to return four regular starters next season.
Groveport finished 7-16 overall, losing to seventh-seeded Lancaster 25-17, 25-17, 25-8 in the first round of the Division I district tournament Oct. 15.
The Cruisers, who were seeded 32nd, went 2-12 in the OCC-Ohio to place seventh behind Grove City (14-0), Lancaster (12-2), Pickerington North (10-4), Gahanna (8-6), Newark (6-8) and Pickerington Central (3-11) and ahead of Reynoldsburg (1-13).
"I was pleased with the progress the girls made throughout the season, but we have some work to do in the offseason," coach Brooke Incorvaia said. "We've got to concentrate on getting to open gyms and attending summer camps. We've got three of our four starters playing club, which is great."
Groveport loses two seniors in Justine Aguon (libero) and Madison Wilson (outside hitter). Wilson was named second-team all-league and second-team all-district.
"Madison is a very strong and skilled player who led us in attacks and blocks and was a spark for the rest of the team," Incorvaia said. "Justine was an ideal leader through her actions and showed great improvement. She was a very strong back-row player and she was always the first at practice and she just really stepped up."
The starters expected to return are juniors Amanda Arrowood (middle hitter), Paige Beale (setter) and Amanda Madsen (opposite hitter) and freshman Kendra Soler (outside hitter). Arrowood was honorable mention all-league.
Also expected back is sophomore Shianne Curry (middle hitter), who was a part-time starter.
"Soler really grew a lot and all of the underclassmen stepped up dramatically," Incorvaia said. "I was very happy with their play, their effort and their development in skills and knowledge of the game. I'm excited for next season."