The Grove City High School football team held off a late charge from host Groveport by blocking a field-goal attempt in the final seconds to win 24-21 in an OCC-Ohio Division game on Friday, Sept. 23.
Grove City’s Chad Moore and Tyler Conner broke through the line to get their hands on a 30-yard attempt by Groveport’s Jake Jones with 3 seconds left.
“We knew we had to get pressure on them and we had to do our jobs,” Moore said. “I got in and got my hand on the kick and Tyler came in and cleaned it up.”
Grove City coach Matt Jordan was happy to get the victory, as the Dawgs improved to 2-3 overall and 1-1 in the OCC-Ohio.
“(Groveport) converted a bunch of fourth downs on that last drive,” Jordan said. “It was just a crazy ending to a really good football game. It was a really good win for us.”
The Cruisers — who dropped to 2-3 overall and 0-2 in the league — put themselves in position for a potential game-tying kick with a drive that started on their own 23 with 2 minutes, 32 seconds remaining.
Groveport quarterback Shane Denny converted two fourth downs on the possession and set up the field-goal attempt with a 33-yard pass to Wyatt Hikins (seven receptions for 80 yards) to the Grove City 12-yard line with 6.7 seconds remaining.
Denny finished 12-for-23 passing for 123 yards and also carried seven times for 19 yards and a touchdown.
Grove City’s game-winning score was a 2-yard touchdown run by sophomore quarterback Paul Saunders that capped a seven-play, 45-yard drive.
The key play was a 33-yard pass from Saunders to Dylan Meese on third- and-12 to Groveport’s 15-yard line.
Saunders split time with classmate Cameron Meece because starter Nick Davis was ill.
“The two sophomores did a great job,” Jordan said. “They both had big throws at different points in the game and the team really rallied around them.”
Saunders was 2-for-3 passing for 38 yards and carried eight times for 37 yards with one touchdown. Meece was 2-for-4 passing for 68 yards and carried six times for 41 yards.
Senior running back Melvin Smith sparked the Cruisers, as he finished with 178 yards rushing on 21 carries.
Grove City took an early 14-0 lead. Saunders started with Meece also seeing action, and both were in the backfield at the same time on many snaps. Davis threw for 578 yards and three touchdowns in the first four games, but he threw four interceptions in a 20-10 loss to Reynoldsburg on Sept. 16.
Senior running back Jordan Fisher opened with scoring with a 6-yard run just over 3 minutes into the game, and he added a 5-yard touchdown run with 10:27 left in the second quarter. The second score was set up by a blocked punt that gave Grove City the ball at Groveport’s 10-yard line.
Groveport stayed close, however, behind the running of Melvin Smith, who carried 12 times for 145 yards in the first half, including a 9-yard touchdown run.
Denny had a 2-yard touchdown late in the half for the Cruisers that cut the Grove City lead to 17-14.
Smith later capped a 13-play, 72-yard drive with a 1-yard run that gave the Cruisers their first lead at 21-17 with 45 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
“We’ll take wins any way we can,” Jordan said. “I’m proud of these kids for their perseverance, the way our defense forced a punt when we needed to, the way we converted on third-down and long. I’m really proud of the kids and how we pulled it off.”
GROVE CITY 7 10 0 7 -- 24
GROVEPORT 0 14 7 0 – 21
GC--Fisher 6 run (Nankivell kick)
GC--Fisher 5 run (Nankivell kick)
G--Smith 9 run (Jones kick)
GC--Nankivell 43 FG
G--Denny 2 run (Jones kick)
G--Smith 1 run (Jones kick)
GC--Saunders 2 run (Nankivell kick)