With players such as JaShaun McGraw and Jalil Underdown experiencing breakout performances, the Groveport Madison football team snapped a 12-game losing streak in Week 2 of last season.

The fact that the Cruisers beat a neighboring opponent in Hamilton Township in the Obetz Bowl at Fortress Obetz that night added even more excitement.

The teams will meet for the third consecutive season Thursday, Sept. 5, at the same venue.

The Rangers won 21-14 in 2017, but the Cruisers won 28-14 last year as McGraw and Underdown rushed for 108 and 82 yards, respectively.

"Being able to experience the moments with my teammates and coaches, along with our supporters in the stands, it's honestly a humbling experience," Underdown said.

Hamilton Township was unable to continue its momentum from last season when it won five of its final eight games after an 0-2 start to finish 5-5, as the Rangers lost to Franklin Heights 13-8 on Aug. 30 at home.

That same night, Groveport beat Westerville North 31-6 in its opener.

The Cruisers, which also finished 5-5 last season, amassed 263 yards rushing on 46 carries against the Warriors.

Emmanuel Anthony ran for touchdowns of 41 and 61 yards, Underdown had a 16-yard touchdown catch from quarterback Colin Rice and McGraw rushed for one score.

"I was happy," coach Bryan Schoonover said. "They came out in the first half and were mistake-free. We forced three turnovers. I thought we played fairly well. We didn't capitalize on some things, but when they came out, they were locked in and ready to play."

Cutting down on penalties and having its defense on the field for "entirely too long in the third quarter," according to Schoonover, were among the Cruisers' focuses this week in preparation for the Rangers.

Hamilton Township's strength also might be its running game, which features senior Jaylan Baldwin and junior Josiah Beverly.

Baldwin scored on a 4-yard run in the third quarter against Franklin Heights to give the Rangers an 8-7 lead, but the Falcons scored the game-winning touchdown in the final period.

"(Running back is) one of our stronger positions when we ranked our kids," Hamilton Township coach Mike Savino said. "Three of our top seven guys were in that category and it kind of did force us to run some more two-back and split-back stuff."

Schoonover expects to see a Rangers team that is "big, athletic and physical."

"It's exciting," Schoonover said. "They're our neighbors. Our kids know their kids and it's always fun when you get a chance to play a rival. We're definitely looking forward to going to Fortress (Obetz) again. I think their coaching staff does a great job. They're always prepared and always have some wrinkles in with tough kids that play hard. If we don't go out and execute and do what we're supposed to do, we're going to be in trouble."

julrey@thisweeknews.com

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