New coach settling in with Cruisers
First-year Groveport Madison High School football coach Bryan Schoonover is uncertain how good his team will be or how many wins it will record.
He is confident, however, that the changes he and his staff have made will produce a positive environment in which allows athletes can improve and thrive.
"We have a solid group of senior leaders who are working hard to change the culture of the program," said Schoonover, whose first game as a head coach will be Friday, Aug. 30, at Westerville South. "With their dedication we're seeing a lot of our younger players buying into our program.
"We have three goals. First, we want to be great role models on and off the field. We want to create a tradition that makes our community proud and, of course, we want to win."
Schoonover takes over for Tim Brown, who was 38-64 in 10 seasons. Groveport had three winning seasons under Brown, going 7-3 in 2007 and 6-4 in both 2009 and 2010.
Last season, the Cruisers went 1-9 overall and 0-7 in the OCC-Ohio Division. They beat Walnut Ridge 21-20 in the non-league finale but lost two close league games, falling 35-34 to Lancaster when they failed to convert a late two-point conversion attempt and 16-14 to Newark in consecutive weeks.
Schoonover, a 1998 Groveport graduate, was offensive coordinator at Lancaster the past three seasons.
"Change is always tough, but we have good kids and they've stuck by me and stuck with us since Day 1," Schoonover said. "We have a senior-driven team and those seniors are working hard to get better and be more disciplined. I'm proud of their work ethic and their leadership."
Schoonover brings that bullish mindset and strong running game philosophy from Lancaster with him to Groveport, which lost just five starters to graduation.
"We're going to be a run-oriented offense with some variables, some shotgun, some two-back sets," Schoonover said. "Our objective is to control the football. That's imperative for us to succeed. We must control the ball and play great defense."
Senior Austin Newman should start at quarterback in the Cruisers' triple-option offense with junior Derrel Gibbs as his backup.
Senior Mecca Swain, who played quarterback and running back last season, is expected to start at running back, with classmates Tristen Gabriel and Dayrel Billingsley also seeing action. Swain was honorable mention all-league a year ago.
"Swain is shifty and has good speed," Schoonover said. "He cuts well and we're going to try to get him the ball in space in this new system. He's a tough kid, too. So we'll see how well he does between the tackles. He loves to play the game and he's got potential to be explosive."
Fullbacks will be juniors Jordan Garrettson and Dalonte Smith, and senior Terric Bryant and junior Markel Davis are receivers.
"Davis is a long, lanky kid at 6-foot-4 and we're going to move him around some and see if we can create some mismatches or stretch the field," Schoonover said.
The offensive line is anchored by senior guards Cameron Oshodi (6-1, 255 pounds) and Kevin Schrader (6-1, 240). Junior Malcolm Solack (5-11, 220) will be at center, with senior Matt Perdue (5-11, 215) and sophomore Marshall Buck (5-10, 195) lining up at tackle.
Missing is 2013 graduate Durrel Wood, a 6-3, 315-pound lineman who was second-team all-district in Division I and second-team all-league. Wood is playing at Ohio University.
"Oshodi is our leader vocally," Schoonover said. "He's a tough kid who moves pretty well for his size. Schrader and Solack have had great camps and our defensive front has looked good, too."
Groveport hopes to be a two-platoon squad, but Schoonover said that youth in certain areas may mean some players eventually play both ways.
Expected to start at tackles in the 4-3 base defense are senior Alex Hoyt (5-8, 230) and Oshodi. Junior Jacob Dalton (6-4, 220) will be at one end, with juniors Philip Austin (6-3, 200) and Wes Fearing (6-2, 215) competing for the other spot.
Groveport lost graduate Dawuane Smoot, a 6-3 235-pound defensive lineman who is playing at Illinois after earning second-team all-district and first-team all-league honors
The linebackers will be Bryant (6-2, 195), senior Deshawn Sowell (6-2, 185) and sophomore Daquan Mayle (6-0, 195).
Seniors Raymel Medley and Keilyn Williamson will be the cornerbacks and classmate Tyren Jackson will be one of the safeties. Senior Nick Strong and junior Mike Large are competing for the other starting spot at safety.
Jackson was special mention all-league last year and was selected as a captain along with Oshodi, Hoyt and Swain.