The Groveport Madison High School football team has put together consecutive wins for the first time in two seasons, but the Cruisers now are preparing for perhaps the stiffest test they could face this fall.
Coming off a 35-14 home win over Worthington Kilbourne on Sept. 7, the Cruisers will visit longtime foe and defending Division I state champion Pickerington Central on Friday, Sept. 14.
"We know it will be the biggest challenge on our schedule, but we're going to go in there ready to do our best," coach Bryan Schoonover said. "They have a great, great program and they do a nice job of reloading every year. We have to look at it as a challenge to see where we're at and what we can do to continue to improve."
The Cruisers amassed 409 yards of offense against Kilbourne. They had 204 yards in the first half, more than the 195 Kilbourne gained for the entire game.
Jashaun McGraw rushed for 183 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries and Jalil Underdown added 10 carries for 142 yards and two touchdowns.
Groveport, which rolled up 389 yards on the ground, had not won consecutive games since posting three victories in a row late in the 2016 season.
Central improved to 3-0 with a 42-19 win at defending Division III state champion Trotwood-Madison on Sept. 7. Jamir Jackson rushed for 94 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries and the Tigers took control early in the third quarter.
Terry Simuel returned a kickoff 86 yards for a touchdown to make it 21-13, and on Trotwood-Madison's next drive, Jaquwon Crawford returned an interception 85 yards for a score.
Quarterback Demeatric Crenshaw, a junior, accounted for 2,983 yards of total offense -- rushing for 1,379 yards and 24 touchdowns on 216 carries and competing 89 of 172 passes for 1,604 yards and 13 scores -- last season in leading Central to the program's first state title.
Trotwood-Madison is the second defending state champion the Tigers have defeated this season. Central routed Chicago Phillips Academy, last year's Class 5A champion in Illinois, 49-18 on Aug. 26 at Otterbein.
"Every game is a challenge and that's what makes football the great sport it is," Schoon-over said. "We can use it as a gauge as a team and each player can use it as a personal test. You only get better from challenges like this one."
Groveport trails the all-time series with Central 28-8 and has lost 27 consecutive games to the Tigers since a 14-7 win in the 1990 season opener. The teams have met every season since 1981.
Although the Cruisers have not beaten Central since roughly a decade before this year's seniors were born, the current players are more concerned with building on recent success and forgetting the adversity of the past year.
"Our line was reading and executing well (against Kilbourne)," McGraw said. "I'm happy with everything we're doing right now. We're playing well."
Girls tennis coach sees growth in team
Despite a rough start to the season, girls tennis coach Phil Hankins remains confident that his team can achieve or exceed its goal of five wins, three more than a year ago.
The Cruisers are 1-5 overall entering a Thursday, Sept. 13, match at Kilbourne and are 1-2 in the OCC-Capital Division.
Groveport got its first win Aug. 23, edging Franklin Heights 3-2 in league play.
With a largely stable lineup, with Raaya Cummings playing first singles in four of the Cruisers' first five matches, Hankins is encouraged by progress in technique.
"Our biggest area of improvement has been our groundstrokes," Hankins said. "Early in the season, groundstrokes were very inconsistent but have improved greatly in the last few weeks.
"One surprise has been the play of junior Precious Anumbondem. She doesn't have any wins yet, but has been playing solid at third singles."
Anumbondem, a transfer from Madison Christian, played second doubles with Lori Hill in Groveport's first two matches -- 5-0 losses to Teays Valley on Aug. 10 and Central Crossing on Aug. 13 -- first doubles with Gabby Monjaras in a 5-0 loss at Lancaster on Aug. 21 and third singles against both Franklin Heights and in a 5-0 loss to Canal Winchester in a league match Aug. 28.
Groveport continued its league schedule last week with a 5-0 loss at Newark on Sept. 4.
A scheduled Aug. 30 match against New Albany, which has won 11 OCC-Capital championships in the past 12 seasons, was postponed because of football games involving both schools. A reschedule date had not been determined as of late last week, nor had one for a Sept. 6 league match at Big Walnut that was postponed because of bad weather.
"Our last five matches, we should have a good chance to win," Hankins said. "Our goal to end with five wins should be achievable."
Boys soccer team set for league play
The boys soccer team took a 4-1-2 record and a three-game winning streak into its Sept. 11 home game with Delaware.
After an 0-0-2 start, Groveport defeated Teays Valley 1-0 on Aug. 25 and lost to Pickerington North 3-1 on Aug. 28 before posting consecutive wins over Independence (5-1 on Sept. 1), Lancaster (4-0 on Sept. 4) and Briggs (5-1 on Sept. 6).
The Cruisers begin OCC-Capital play Thursday, Sept. 13, at home against Franklin Heights. Groveport went 1-3-1 in the league last year to finish fifth behind champion New Albany (5-0).
Below are the coming schedules for the Groveport Madison cross country, boys golf, boys soccer, girls soccer, girls tennis and girls volleyball teams:
Sept. 15 -- Trinity-Valkyrie Invitational at E.P. Sawyer State Park
Sept. 17 -- Westland at The Links at Groveport
*Sept. 13 -- Home vs. Franklin Heights
Sept. 18 -- Home vs. Central Crossing
Sept. 13 -- At Worthington Kilbourne
*Sept. 13 -- Home vs. New Albany
Sept. 15 -- Home vs. Columbus West and Licking Heights