With more than 30 seniors on the roster, the Groveport Madison High School football team has plenty of leaders for its younger players to follow.

With more than 30 seniors on the roster, the Groveport Madison High School football team has plenty of leaders for its younger players to follow.

Coach Bryan Schoonover just hopes all of the leaders continually pull in the same direction.

"There are different ways to be a leader, but what you want are the guys like Rafael Rhone and Kyle Duty being your leaders," Schoonover said. "They lead by example and speak up when they need to."

Rhone, a 6-foot, 245-pound defensive end, is proficient at rushing the quarterback and stopping the run.

"He's a great kid with tremendous work ethic and a motor that doesn't stop," Schoonover said. "He's smart, talented and loves to hit people. He studies film, is very athletic and can stop the run and the pass. He's a hard-nosed kid that does everything exceptionally well."

Duty is a 5-11, 190-pound fullback and linebacker.

"I love having kids like Kyle," Schoonover said. "He's as good as he is because he does all the little things and has a blue-collar mentality. He's always in the right spot on offense or defense. He might not have overwhelming natural talent, but his work ethic allows him to be a successful athlete in football and wrestling."

"I don't like to talk," Duty said when asked about being a leader. "I like to play and show what I can do and let others follow my example. I approach practice like that, too.

The Cruisers, who finished 5-5 last year, were expecting to have a breakout season, but lost their opener to Westerville North 24-21 on Aug. 26, allowing a 1-yard touchdown run by Warriors running back Greg Shehee with 35 seconds remaining.

Groveport, which played Columbus South on Sept. 2, plays host to Thomas Worthington on Friday, Sept. 9.

"I don't see the loss to Westerville North as a setback," Rhone said. "I just think it was the nerves of some younger dudes, but I think they've got it now and we can move forward. I just tell them to calm down and play football. It's just football. They've been playing football their entire lives."

Duty believes the Cruisers still can accomplish their goals this season.

"This team can be great if we put it together," he said. "We have all the tools. I think this team will be great, but we've got to take it day by day and work on the things we need to fix. Practice makes perfect. Repetitions and effort are the keys to everything."

Thomas lost to Canal Winchester 24-21 in double overtime in its opener Aug. 26 and played Westerville North on Sept. 2.

The Cardinals, who have only seven seniors and 20 juniors, finished 1-9 last season. Their spread offense is led by quarterback Nick Kendig, running backs DiJahn Davis and Khalil Jones and receivers Sam Lafontant, Fletch Curran and Tanner West.

Lineman Travis Sanders, a fourth-year starter, leads Thomas' 3-4 defense, along with two-way lineman Justin Tullos and linebackers Charlie Kneessi and Louis Dykstra.

Boys soccer team gaining confidence

The boys soccer team was just 2-2 through its first four games, but coach Kyle Basil has been pleased with his team's competitiveness, particularly in a 2-0 loss to Pickerington Central on Aug. 30.

"We gave up a goal with four minutes left when we were trying hard to knot the score," Basil said. "(Central) took a 1-0 lead with about 17 minutes left, so we were pressing hard for the tie and got caught. But we competed hard and played well. It's been like that every game. I'm happy with the intensity we've displayed against good competition. I think we're gaining respect.

"We had (scoring) chances and the game was back and forth. We just didn't finish some chances we had. We played confident and gained more confidence."

The Cruisers opened with a 1-0 loss to Fairfield Union on Aug. 19. They beat Reynoldsburg 3-2 on Aug. 23 and defeated Teays Valley 4-1 on Aug. 27.

Groveport, which moved to the OCC-Capital Division this season from the OCC-Ohio, is 1-1 against former league foes after finishing 2-4-1 in league play a year ago. Its game against former league foe Lancaster on Aug. 25 was postponed but had yet to be rescheduled as of last week.

"I think we've played extremely well defensively," Basil said. "Mohammed Lee, Robbie Sithixay, Bradley Byers and Louis Hernandez have been strong in the back and Kenny Pettay and Chris Royster have played well in the center midfield. Austin Snyder and Jayson Singratsomboune are doing a good job up top, too."

Girls volleyball team begins league play

The girls volleyball team was 4-2 overall before playing Lancaster on Sept. 1.

The Cruisers began OCC-Capital play Sept. 6 against Franklin Heights. They have league matches at Canal Winchester on Thursday, Sept. 8, and at home against New Albany on Tuesday, Sept. 13.

Through six matches, Groveport's losses came against former OCC-Ohio rivals Pickerington Central (25-8, 25-16, 25-11 on Aug. 23) and Pickerington North (25-13, 25-13, 25-21 on Aug. 30).

bemerine@thisweeknews.com

@Brad_ThisWeek

Schedules

Below are the coming schedules for the Groveport Madison cross country, boys golf, boys soccer, girls soccer, girls tennis and girls volleyball teams:

CROSS COUNTRY

Sept. 10 -- McGowan Invitational at Watkins Memorial

BOYS GOLF

Sept. 14 -- OCC-Capital at Turnberry

BOYS SOCCER

Sept. 8 -- At Mount Vernon

Sept. 10 -- Home vs. Logan

*Sept. 13 -- Home vs. Franklin Heights

GIRLS SOCCER

Sept. 8 -- Home vs. Westland

*Sept. 13 -- At Franklin Heights

GIRLS TENNIS

*Sept. 8 -- At Big Walnut

GIRLS VOLLEYBALL

*Sept. 8 -- At Canal Winchester

*Sept. 13 -- Home vs. New Albany

*League contest