New Albany football coach Bubba Kidwell spread ample credit throughout his team Nov. 1 after the Eagles dominated visiting Groveport 35-7 to earn a share of the OCC-Capital Division championship.
The defensive line set the tone early, stuffing the Cruisers’ potent run game and limiting them to 48 yards on the ground in the first half and 132 for the game — far short of their average of 320.1 entering the week.
That was complemented by a stellar performance from 5-foot-8, 138-pound running back Mechi McCaulley, who rushed for 219 yards and three touchdowns on 22 carries. McCaulley’s 36-yard touchdown with 10 minutes, 36 seconds to play answered Groveport’s only score.
“Our kids did an unbelievable job controlling the scrimmage. We played on their side of the line quite a bit,” Kidwell said. “Our guys were ready right from the start. We had to fight down low because they have such a big offensive line. And Mechi, I don’t think anybody has played harder in a New Albany uniform than him.”
McCaulley scored from 38 yards on the Eagles’ first possession, the first points the Cruisers had allowed since a 61-7 win at Franklin Heights on Oct. 4.
Brock Tibbitts threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to Brody Kidwell early in the second quarter to make it 14-0.
Jalil Underdown broke off a 50-yard touchdown run with 2:18 left in the third quarter to bring Groveport within 14-7, but McCaulley scored on runs of 36 and 17 yards on New Albany’s next two drives to make it a rout.
“We kept pounding and hitting the holes,” McCaulley said. “They had a five-man front and brought everybody quick so once we got through the line, there was a lot of open field.”
While New Albany split the league championship with the Cruisers and Canal Winchester as all three teams went 4-1, the Eagles’ already slim playoff hopes hung by a thread after the game.
The Eagles, who finished 7-3 overall, were 11th in Division I, Region 3 entering the week, three spots out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the region.
Groveport was safely in the playoffs before the game, as it was third in the region, and also had already clinched a share of its first league championship since 1982.
Underdown rushed for 71 yards on 11 carries to lead the Cruisers, who dropped to 8-2 overall.
“We couldn’t do anything offensively. We got a few stops defensively but not enough,” Groveport coach Bryan Schoonover said. “We’ll move on and move forward.”
==========Team 1 2 3 4 Final GROVEPORT 0 0 7 0 7 NEW ALBANY
7 7 0 21 35
NA—McCaulley 38 run (Smith kick)
NA—Brod. Kidwell 4 pass from Tibbitts (Smith kick)
G—Underdown 50 run (Snyder kick)
NA—McCaulley 36 run (Smith kick)
NA—McCaulley 17 run (Smith kick)
NA—Hall 5 run (Smith kick)