Among the Groveport Madison High School football team's three losses by seven points or fewer last season was a 21-14 decision to visiting Hamilton Township in Week 2.
The Cruisers will get an opportunity to avenge that loss -- and build on a strong defensive performance in this year's opener -- when they face the Rangers on Thursday, Aug. 30, at Fortress Obetz in a game being televised on CW Columbus.
Groveport lost its 12th consecutive game spanning to the 2016 season when it fell 10-7 at Westerville North on Aug. 24. That same night, Hamilton Township lost to Granville 35-7.
"We've got to execute better offensively," coach Bryan Schoonover said. "In our scrimmages, we really didn't have any execution problems. (In the opener) we were making mistakes that we hadn't been making, which to me was eye-opening."
The Rangers, who are coming off a 4-6 finish last season in coach Mike Savino's first season, fell behind Granville 28-0 and scored their only touchdown on a 5-yard pass from Derek Larimer to Kaveon Ross in the second quarter.
Hamilton Township finished with 230 yards of offense as Larimer completed 23 of 39 passes for 199 yards and Ross had nine catches for 75 yards.
Larimer played for the Rangers as a freshman in 2016 and for a school in Kentucky last fall before returning to Hamilton Township.
Corey Hise, a senior who sees time at tight end and wide receiver and is a college recruit, is another key player on offense for the Rangers.
In the Cruisers' opening loss, North led 3-0 until the fourth quarter when Rondale Smith scored on a 5-yard run to make it 10-0.
Jaylin Chaney scored on a 93-yard touchdown pass from Colin Kerns with 1 minute, 30 seconds left for Groveport's only score.
Jasiyah Robinson, who sees time at end, tackle and outside linebacker, led the Cruisers' defense, according to Schoonover.
"We shot ourselves in the foot," Schoonover said. "(North) played well and we had missed opportunities, so hats off to them. We scored late in the game, but there were parts to the game that can go either way. Our defense played really hard and I thought there were some guys that really came in and played well."
Boys soccer team aims to build on 2017
The boys soccer team is expecting to build on last season, as seven starters and 10 letterwinners return from last fall when the Cruisers finished 10-4-4 overall.
"Our strength comes from our core players we have returning," second-year coach Ivan Landaverde said. "Anytime you're able to bring back a majority of your starters, you effectively have a head start. The players already know what to expect and they understand the expectations the coaching staff have put in place.
"I believe if we can manage to stay healthy and continue to build on what we had last season, we should be able to do great things. We had a couple bumps and bruises during important games last season. I was impressed with our preseason and the numbers of kids that participated this summer were a lot better than last year. It shows how committed our players are in their development and we hope that drives our success this season."
The core group includes seniors Jevon Diawara (defender) and Luis Hernandez (midfielder), juniors Melvin Esca-milla (defender), Eddie Monroy (goalkeeper), Justin Sartin (forward) and Austin Snyder (forward) and sophomore Jeffrey Asamoah (forward).
Diawara (first team), Snyder (second tam) and Asamoah (honorable mention) earned all-league honors last season when the Cruisers went 1-3-1 in the OCC-Capital Division to finish fifth behind champion New Albany (5-0).
"Jeffrey led the team in scoring and his development has continued to improve," Landaverde said. "The coaching staff was impressed with what he did this summer. Austin also had a good summer. I don't think I have ever seen a young man who works as hard as he does both on and off the field. He is one of those players you want to clone. Jevon is our leader in the back. He continues to demonstrate all the qualities an effective leader should have."
Groveport went 7-0-2 on its new home field last season, but were 3-4-2 on the road. The Cruisers opened with two home games, playing Reynoldsburg to a scoreless tie in their opener Aug. 17 and tying Dublin Scioto at 1 on Aug. 21. They then defeated host Teays Valley 1-0 on Aug. 25 before playing host to Pickerington North on Aug. 28.
Groveport opens league play Sept. 13 at home against Franklin Heights.
Others battling for starting spots or looking to contribute include seniors Ashmin Adhikari (defender), Kwaku Kari-Kari (midfielder), Abdul Swala (defender) and Daniel Woo (forward), juniors Foday Camara (midfielder), Caleb Daley (midfielder), Austin Gautier (forward) and Jordan Murphy (forward) and sophomores Chandler Jones (defender), Edward Olusemo (midfielder) and Mamadou Seye (midfielder).
Girls soccer team returns eight starters
The girls soccer team returns a lot of experience, as second-year coach Mark Coyer welcomed back nine letterwinners, including eight starters.
The Cruisers are looking to improve on last season when they finished 6-11 overall and went 1-4 in the OCC-Capital to place fifth behind champion Canal Winchester (4-0-1).
Groveport lost to Reynoldsburg 5-0 in its opener Aug. 17 and defeated Westland 3-0 on Aug. 23 before losing to Teays Valley 9-0 on Aug. 25.
The Cruisers, who played Pickerington North on Aug. 28, open league play Sept. 13 at Franklin Heights.
Ashley Stauffer returns at sweeper and is one of only two seniors on the roster. The other is defender Hannah Jenkins. Stauffer also is one of two returnees who earned all-league honors last season, as she was named special mention and sophomore midfielder Lyla Khanthchack was on the second team.
Other returning starters are juniors Alissa Blackstone (goalie), Emilie Sithixay (defender) and Sydney Wemter (midfielder) and sophomores Madelyne Brown (defender), Jasmine Hylton (midfielder) and Jennifer Perez (midfielder).
Sithixay, who missed last season with an ACL injury, has moved from midfield to the back.
"Emilie will be playing her natural position, where she is very talented," Coyer said. "She brings toughness, hard work and intelligence to our team.
"I think Lyla is going to have a great season in her second year in the midfield. She makes great decisions with the ball and makes her teammates better. She knows and sees the game very well."
Freshmen Abby Griffith and Shelby DeMatteo will get the bulk of the work at forward. Sophomore Veronica Baumgardner, a returning letterwinner, is vying to start on defense.
Others looking to contribute include junior Maimouna Ba (midfielder), sophomores Aluda DeBessay (defender), Samantha Gray (defender), Diana Licea (midfielder), Grace Marquis (goalie), Jayanna Mickey (midfielder), Contance Rollins (midfielder) and Veronica Simonson (midfielder) and freshman Shianna Henry (defender).
Against Westland, Griffith scored two goals and Khanthchack scored one.
"I think we have a solid back line and I think our freshmen are growing quickly and the team is working great together," Coyer said.
The Cruisers lost eight players from last season to graduation, including Jordan McElravey (first-team all-league) and Chloe Sikora (honorable mention all-league).
Aug. 17 -- vs. Reynoldsburg
Aug. 21 -- vs. Dublin Scioto
Aug. 25 -- at Teays Valley
Aug. 28 -- vs. Pickerington North
Sept. 1 -- at Independence
Sept. 4 -- at Lancaster
Sept. 6 -- vs. Briggs
Sept. 11 -- at Delaware
*Sept. 13 -- vs. Franklin Heights
*Sept. 20 -- at Canal Winchester
Sept. 22 -- vs. Grove City
*Sept. 25 -- vs. New Albany
Sept. 29 -- vs. Licking Heights
*Oct. 2 -- at Newark
Oct. 6 -- at Whitehall
*Oct. 9 -- vs. Big Walnut
Aug. 17 -- vs. Reynoldsburg
Aug. 23 -- vs. Westland
Aug. 25 -- vs. Teays Valley
Aug. 28 -- at Pickerington North
Sept. 1 -- at Licking Heights
Sept. 4 -- vs. Lancaster
Sept. 6 -- at Briggs
Sept. 11 -- vs. CSG
*Sept. 13 -- at Franklin Heights
Sept. 18 -- vs. Central Crossing
*Sept. 20 -- vs. Canal Winchester
*Sept. 25 -- at New Albany
*Oct. 2 -- vs. Newark
*Oct. 9 -- at Big Walnut
Oct. 11 -- vs. Tree of Life
Oct. 13 -- at Hamilton Township
Below are the coming schedules for the Groveport Madison cross country, boys golf, girls tennis and girls volleyball teams:
Sept. 1 -- Westerville North Classic
Sept. 4 -- Licking Heights Invitational
Sept. 5 -- Franklin Heights at The Links at Groveport
*Aug. 30 -- At New Albany
*Sept. 4 -- At Newark
Aug. 30 -- At Lancaster
Sept. 4 -- Home vs. Franklin Heights