The Groveport Madison High School football team has struggled this season and is winless entering an OCC-Capital Division game against Canal Winchester on Friday, Oct. 6, at Le'Veon Bell Field at Cruiser Stadium.
Despite injuries and inexperience, the Cruisers, who have only six seniors on the roster, continue to work hard.
"It's a tough situation and nobody is happy that we're not winning," said coach Bryan Schoonover, whose team fell to 0-6 overall and 0-1 in the OCC-Capital with a 44-20 loss to Franklin Heights on Sept. 29. "Losing is something you never settle for, but our young guys are developing every week and we talk about the process daily.
"The kids understand that the process is taking longer than we hoped, but the administration, parents and community remain supportive. And every day when we go out to practice, the kids look at the positives all around them and realize they are being supported."
That began this past summer when a new synthetic turf was installed thanks to a $750,000 donation from Bell, a 2010 graduate who now is an NFL star running back for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Sponsors then purchased a top-of-the-line scoreboard to add to the facility, which is behind the new school being built that is scheduled to open for the 2018-19 school year.
The turf field also is used this fall by other levels of the football program as well as the boys and girls soccer teams, and it could be used in the spring when the baseball and softball fields are unplayable.
"(Groveport) can be looked at as a playoff site, too, for football and soccer," said Bell, who conducts annual youth football camps at Groveport. "So it can be a money-maker, and that's good for the school and community.
"If I can help one or two players become great through my camps, that would be awesome. But even more important, if they all get better and contribute to the program, I'll be happy with that. So I just want to motivate them."
That's the same point Schoonover continues to stress.
"Considering where this program was when I took over five years ago, it's unbelievable," he said. "You look at the facility and the support we have. I just can't believe it. When you have a class person and great athlete who gives back to his roots, it's just incredible. I can't say enough about Le'Veon and his family. They're just tremendous people."
But the facility is just one part of school pride, according to Schoonover.
"Look at the new school building," he said. "All of the students will benefit from this, not just student-athletes with the new gyms, weight rooms and wrestling rooms. It gives you a sense of pride."
That's something that boys basketball coach Ryan Grashel appreciates.
"We've lost a lot of good athletes to other schools through the years, but maybe the new facilities and new school will give them enough pride to stay home and not leave for other (schools)," he said. "We have to continue to build athletic successes."
Grashel recently lost one of his expected returnees, as point guard Corey Baker enrolled at Pickerington North for his senior season.
Bell said this season is just a beginning point for the football team and other athletic programs at Groveport.
"With the new school, new field and scoreboard, I think we're beginning a winning streak," he said. "But it's like Thanksgiving day. The turkey is in and cooking, but you have to wait awhile before you can eat. In the meantime, we're hungry. That's where we're at in this process. It may take a few more years, but we're headed in the right direction."
"Despite our record, there are a lot of positives taking place here," Schoonover said. "I'm very happy with our players' work ethic. They continue to grind it out and work hard. The goal is to become a good football program with consistency that everyone can be proud of. We're going to continue to work toward that goal."