Groveport Madison football coach Bryan Schoonover laughingly noted that the Cruisers' Division I, Region 3 first-round home game Friday, Nov. 8, against Hilliard Davidson "might be the fastest game in playoff history."
The fourth-seeded Cruisers and fifth-seeded Wildcats both rely heavily on the run, although in different ways as Groveport operates from the wing-T and Davidson long has thrived off the triple option under 21st-year coach Brian White.
"We saw them on film earlier this season when we were preparing for Pickerington Central and that was right after Groveport had beaten them (19-14 on Sept. 20)," White said. "We were extremely impressed. They're a big, smashmouth team that will come right at you. They're certainly an extremely tough matchup for us. We felt like there were a few other teams in the region that were a better matchup for us than they are."
Groveport is 8-2 but coming off a 35-7 loss at New Albany on Nov. 1 in which it was held to 146 total yards, all but 14 of which came on the ground. The Cruisers, who went 4-1 in the OCC-Capital Division to share the league championship with Canal Winchester and New Albany, had averaged 320.1 yards rushing through nine games.
Jalil Underdown's 50-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter was Groveport's only score.
That same night, Davidson improved to 7-3 with a 31-13 win at Westland, its third victory in a row. The Wildcats shared the OCC-Central championship with Dublin Coffman and Upper Arlington, as all three teams went 4-1.
Against Westland, Kris Thornton rushed for 101 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries, Johnny Weir had nine carries for 77 yards and a score and Nick Dymek returned an interception 20 yards for a touchdown.
"They run that triple option to perfection," Schoonover said. "(White) obviously knows what he's doing. They have two (Division I) state titles to show for it (in 2006 and 2009). There aren't too many teams around who run the triple option anymore. We must be sound with our assignments, eliminate their big plays and control the ball ourselves."
Fullback Jashaun McGraw leads Groveport with 907 yards rushing and 11 touchdowns on 154 carries.
Davidson and Groveport, who are meeting for the first time since 2003, have different playoff pedigrees.
The Wildcats are in the playoffs for the 11th time in 12 seasons and 19th time overall, while Groveport is in the postseason for the first time since 2007 and fourth time in program history. The Cruisers' other appearances were in 1986 and 1988.
Davidson leads the all-time series 23-11.
"We're excited for this week and I mean that," Schoonover said. "A lot of people in our community are excited for a home game in the playoffs. I'm hoping we play well and control (Davidson's) midline veer. We're going to have to earn everything we get."
The winner will play top-seeded Olentangy Liberty or eighth-seeded Westerville Central in a regional semifinal Nov. 15 at a neutral site.
"We're on a three-game (winning) streak and two of those have come against playoff teams (Dublin Coffman and Marysville), but still, I see too many inconsistencies for us to be where we need to be going into a game like this," White said. "I feel like I've told our guys that every week this season. We have no choice but to play with a sense of urgency this week."