The New Albany football team enters its regular-season finale Friday, Nov. 1, at home against Groveport wanting what its opponent already has earned.
Correction: An earlier version of this story had field hockey player Halle Galbraith as a sophomore. She is a senior.
The Cruisers clinched a share of the OCC-Capital Division championship, their first league title in 37 years, with a 49-0 win over Big Walnut on Oct. 25. At 8-1 overall and 4-0 in the league, Groveport also has clinched a spot in the Division I, Region 3 playoffs.
Meanwhile, the Eagles, who are 6-3 overall and 3-1 in the OCC-Capital, tied for second place with Canal Winchester, need to win to earn a share of the league championship and to keep alive their slim hopes for a return to the postseason after a one-year absence.
New Albany was projected to be 11th in Region 3 this week, three spots shy of its 10th playoff berth. According to Fantastic50.net, the Eagles have a 2 percent chance of making the playoffs.
That improves to just 16 percent with a win.
"This is a very important week," coach Bubba Kidwell said. "The seniors want to leave their mark on the program. That's something we talk about a lot, to be a group that has the team in position to achieve our goals heading into Week 10 and maybe even beyond."
New Albany is coming off a 34-7 win at Franklin Heights on Oct. 25 in which 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 Brock Tibbitts completed six of 10 passes for 135 yards and two scores.
Groveport was projected to be fourth in Region 3 this week. The top eight teams in the region make the playoffs and the top four play host to first-round games.
Against Big Walnut, the Cruisers amassed all of their 318 yards on the ground and recorded their third consecutive shutout dating to a 61-7 win at Franklin Heights on Oct. 4 -- matching their total number of shutout wins in 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 against Big Walnut.
Motton's other two touchdowns this season have been on kickoff returns.
"Our defensive staff does an absolutely tremendous job," Groveport coach Bryan 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."
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.
"Groveport is huge and they move well. They're big and powerful with a lot of speed," Kidwell said. "They're very impressive offensively. They know what they want to execute and they do it."
Boys soccer team drops district final
Although the boys soccer team fell behind on a corner kick five minutes into its Division I district final Oct. 26 against third-seeded St. Charles at Westerville North and was unable to catch up, coach Johnny Ulry called a 3-0 loss a mostly even contest after that point.
"They are used to being here," Ulry said of the Cardinals, who won their third consecutive district title and denied the Eagles their first since 2016. "That corner kick (for St. Charles' first goal) kind of set the tone and maybe 10 minutes later, we were able to slow the game down and it was really a back-and-forth game from there. We created some chances. We missed a breakaway right before halftime that could have changed and it was mostly even in the second half."
Sophomore goalkeeper Gaige Weiner made eight saves for 14th-seeded New Albany, which finished 12-6-1. The Eagles advanced to the final with a 1-0 win at eighth-seeded Olentangy Orange in a semifinal Oct. 22 when sophomore forward Kam Kist scored in the 19th minute.
In addition to senior defender Luke Baily playing with a broken right foot the entire season, sophomore defender Henri Heyes played some of the district final with 11 stitches in a knee after being injured against Orange.
Other players eligible to return include juniors Jakob Bering (midfielder), Ryan Blackburn (defender) and Will Fischer (midfielder) and sophomore Derrik Harris (forward).
Girls team settles for runner-up finish
Most of the girls soccer team's top players are eligible to return after the eighth-seeded Eagles lost to top-seeded Dublin Coffman 3-0 on Oct. 26 in a Division I district final at Westerville North to finish 12-4-3.
Juniors Kelis Brown (midfielder/forward), Madison Cofer (defender), Jordan Conley (goalie) and Morgan Wiest (forward) and sophomore Faith Grisdale (midfielder) all are expected back, as is junior forward Brooklyn Harris, a USC commit who missed the season after undergoing knee surgery to repair a microfracture.
Wiest scored both goals in the Eagles' 2-1 win over visiting and 15th-seeded Olentangy Berlin in a district semifinal Oct. 23.
"We've definitely grown over the course of the year," coach Jared Dombrowski said. "I knew some teams would try to shy away from the No. 1 seed with Coffman and I am confident with our girls (against) whoever we play. You'll have to beat great teams to have a chance at the regional and if we could knock out No. 1, let's try. We were battle tested and the girls always found a way to get it done.
"The girls found their roles in the system and bought in. We started to understand things more as the season went on."
Field hockey team loses to Vikings
A historic season for the field hockey team came to an end Oct. 26 with a 3-0 loss to top-seeded Columbus Academy in a district final at Olentangy Liberty.
Junior goalie Bella Thompson made 15 saves for the fourth-seeded Eagles, who finished a program-best 14-5 and were appearing in their first district final. They advanced with a 2-0 home win over fifth-seeded Liberty in a semifinal Oct. 22.
After a 9-0 start, New Albany overcame a four-game losing streak in late September and early October to win five consecutive games, including two in the district tournament.
"I told them to not think about the outcome, just win every single play, and when you break it down that way you're not so focused on the big picture and it's not so overwhelming," coach Marissa Weldon said. "We played (several) top teams right there in a row and you just have to bounce back. It's about finding your confidence and finding what works and staying positive."
Senior forward/midfielder Brooke Mason had a team-leading 16 goals, ahead of senior forward Halle Galbraith (11), senior forward Lily Cole (8) and freshman forward Cassidy Clapham (7).
Freshman forward Laura Mason scored both goals against Liberty, with the assists coming from her older sister. Thompson made three saves.
"We made history," Laura Mason said. "It means a lot. Field hockey has come so far. Marissa has brought it a long way."
Runners fall short at regional
The boys and girls cross country team's seasons ended Oct. 26 in the Division I regional meet at Pickerington North.
Led by junior Victor Orsinelli's 28th-place finish (16:45), the boys were ninth (240) behind champion Gahanna (100) as 16 teams scored. Also scoring were sophomore Will Benseler (32nd, 16:48.8), juniors Ethan McNichols (46th, 16:58.3) and Colin Swincicki (71st, 17:20.6) and sophomore Luke Weibel (105th, 17:56.4).
The girls finished 16th (321) behind champion Hilliard Davidson (36) as 17 teams scored. Sophomore Mary Carson was 48th (20:21.1), followed by freshman Stephanie Thomas (53rd, 20:23.2), sophomore Sammie Sika (75th, 20:42.5), freshman Mary Schultz (96th, 21:01.1) and senior Lindsey Neff (104th, 21:15.4).
Other runners eligible to return include boys sophomores Armaan Rizvi and Evan McClelland and girls freshman E'Moni Saxton, who was the team's top runner six times.