Groveport Madison football coach Bryan Schoonover let himself savor the Cruisers' latest win along with his team, given how much it meant to the program and the community.
A 49-0 rout of visiting Big Walnut on Oct. 25 clinched at least a share of the OCC-Capital Division championship, the program's first league title since 1982, and secured the team's first playoff berth since 2007, according to joeeitel.com.
Groveport will go for the outright league championship Friday, Nov. 1, at New Albany.
"I was 2 years old the last time (Groveport) won a (league) title," Schoonover said. "We have an opportunity to win it outright and hopefully we are able to do that, but it's been 37 years since we've had a league title in football at Groveport. We talked about that in the offseason, that this was one of our goals. Clinching a share is exciting. It's a really special feeling."
The Cruisers amassed all of their 318 yards on the ground and recorded their third consecutive shutout, matching their total number of shutouts the past five seasons combined.
Jashaun McGraw ran for three touchdowns, Emmanuel Anthony, Markel Holmes and Jalil Underdown had one touchdown each and John Motton returned an interception 35 yards for a score in the first quarter against Big Walnut.
Motton's other two touchdowns this season have been on kickoff returns.
"Our defensive staff does an absolutely tremendous job preparing them," Schoonover said. "Our kids are able to make adjustments and are opportunistic when something happens and they have a chance (to create) a turnover or make a big play. We've been able to do that and force teams into some situations they haven't really liked. Our defensive staff and our kids just do a tremendous job with in-game adjustments and halftime adjustments. I like seeing when we make adjustments on the fly and the kids can do it."
The Cruisers outgained the Golden Eagles 318-162 in all but officially wrapping up the program's fourth trip to the postseason. The others were in 1986 and 1988.
Groveport was projected to be fourth in Division I, Region 3 this week. The top eight teams in the region make the playoffs and the top four play host to first-round games.
Canal Winchester and New Albany are tied for second place in the OCC-Capital at 3-1.
The Eagles improved to 6-3 overall with a 34-7 win at Franklin Heights on Oct. 25 as running back Mechi McCaulley ran for a career-high 211 yards on 18 carries, Reed Hall rushed for 88 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries and quarterback Brock Tibbitts completed six of 10 passes for 135 yards and two touchdowns.
New Albany was projected to be 11th in Region 3 this week, three spots shy of their first playoff berth since 2017 and 10th in program history. This is the Eagles' first season in Division I.
"Groveport is huge and they move well. They're big and powerful with a lot of speed," New Albany coach Bubba Kidwell said. "They're very impressive offensively. They know what they want to execute and they do it. We have to play low in order to try and stop them."
Both teams run the wing-T.
New Albany is 3-0 against Groveport since the teams were aligned into the OCC-Capital before the 2016 season. The first two meetings were decided by a touchdown, 35-28 in 2016 and 27-20 in 2017, and the Eagles won 24-10 last year.
Boys soccer team falls to Cardinals
A season that resulted in the first league championship in program history ended Oct. 22 for the boys soccer team when it lost 1-0 at third-seeded St. Charles in a Division I district semifinal.
Senior goalkeeper Eddie Monroy made 12 saves for the Cruisers, who finished 14-3-1 overall and 5-0 in the OCC-Capital, one game ahead of runner-up New Albany (4-1). Groveport was seeded 15th of 52 teams in the district.
St. Charles defeated 14th-seeded New Albany 3-0 in a district final Oct. 26 at Westerville North.
The Cruisers are losing five seniors, including Caleb Dailey (defender), Melvin Esca-milla (midfielder), Austin Gautier (defender) and Austin Snyder (forward).
Players eligible to return include junior midfielders Jeffrey Asamoah, Jeffrey Minah and Edward Olusemo.