When the Groveport High School football team plays host to Canal Winchester on Friday, Aug. 29, it will be the first meeting between the programs in 50 years.
The Cruisers won the past 10 meetings, the last of which came in 1964, and lead the all-time series 15-10. The first matchup occurred in 1909, which was the Indians' inaugural season.
"This game is going to be great for both communities because our schools are so close together and it's been so long since we've played each other," Groveport coach Bryan Schoonover said. "The mayors from each community are going to be involved in the coin toss and we're expecting the biggest crowd that's ever been in our stadium for the renewal of this rivalry. Our kids work together and hang out together and they're really excited to finally play each other in football."
Canal Winchester, which finished 0-10 last season and has lost 11 consecutive games, is searching for its offensive identity after averaging 11.6 points a year ago.
Six starters have returned on the Indians' spread offense, including quarterback Nick Hammond and wide receiver Skyler Scott.
Last season, Hammond was 65-for-127 passing for 790 yards with eight touchdowns and eight interceptions, and Scott had 19 catches for 376 yards and five touchdowns through seven games before sustaining a season-ending shoulder injury.
Also back are running backs Mike Dean and Lamont Martin, who combined for 458 yards rushing and two touchdowns last year.
"We're still trying to figure out what we're good at, but it's always important to run the ball well," Canal Winchester coach Phil Mauro said. "We're not always going to be the most talented or experienced team on the field, so we're going to try to outwork every team we play."
Schoonover said his team's triple-option offense must find a way to run the ball against the Indians' 4-3 defense.
Quarterbacks Wesley Fearing and Derrell Gibbs are both expected to play in the opener, while running backs Thomas Matthews and Dana Cherry and fullback D'Lante Smith are expected to share the workload on the ground.
"Their offensive line comes off the ball well and their backs run the ball hard," Mauro said. "They have a good athlete at wide receiver (Markel Davis) who we'll need to be ready for, too."
The Cruisers finished 1-9 last season. They defeated Newark 52-35 but averaged only 9.8 points in their other nine games.
"We have to establish the run and stay on schedule for our option offense to be successful," Schoonover said. "But Markel Davis is a real good wide receiver, so we may throw the ball a little more this season to take advantage of the speed we have outside."