Reynoldsburg at Groveport Madison: Raiders, Cruisers primed for battle

JARROD ULREY
julrey@thisweeknews.com
Reynoldsburg coach Buddy White directs his team against Gahanna on Aug. 28.

Mitch Westcamp is in his first season as Groveport Madison's football coach, but he believes he has a good indication of what to expect from Reynoldsburg under coach Buddy White.

The Raiders have made three Division I playoff appearances since White became coach in 2011, but Westcamp's history against him goes back even further.

"This is year 13 for me (at Groveport after being an assistant the past 12 seasons) so I've been here long enough that I coached against Buddy (when he was the Reynoldsburg) freshman coach," said Westcamp, who is a 1999 Groveport graduate. "They're no slouch, I can tell you that."

The Cruisers play host to Reynoldsburg on Friday, Sept. 4, in what will be the first matchup between the programs since 2015.

That season, the Raiders beat Groveport 38-7 in the regular-season finale to clinch their first playoff berth in 14 years.

The teams met every year from 2007-15, with the Cruisers winning the first four matchups and Reynoldsburg winning the last five.

Both teams won their openers in impressive fashion and both are coming off seasons in which they made the postseason.

Although the Raiders lost nearly all of their key players on both sides of the ball from last season and started four sophomores on defense against Gahanna, they defeated the Lions 48-14 on Aug. 28.

Reynoldsburg finished with 365 yards of offense and built a big enough lead in the third quarter to produce a running clock.

Junior quarterback Dijon Jennings led the way, as he finished 9-for-18 passing for 135 yards and four touchdowns and rushed for 82 yards and one score on nine carries.

Senior Daniel Broomfield ran 14 times for 65 yards and one touchdown, and junior Jeremiah Crawford-Smith added nine carries for 82 yards.

Seniors Justin Barko and Ajani Preston, junior Markez Gillam and sophomore Jabari Mitchell all had touchdown receptions for the Raiders. Gillam also returned a kickoff for a score.

Groveport, which produced four shutouts last season while finishing 10-3, is led defensively by senior cornerbacks Mike Davis and John Motton, senior linebacker Clarence Gossett, senior safety Elyjah Aekins and senior lineman Makarius Mosley.

"(Groveport) turned the corner last year and is ready to be one of the top teams in central Ohio, so we've got to prepare like they're going to be one of the top teams in central Ohio," White said.

"We've only been practicing (in pads) for a week and a half, so for our offense to do what it did and our defense to hold (Gahanna) to 14 points ... we only had one starter back (on defense)."

Mitchell at linebacker and sophomore defensive back Tehron Spencer each had one interception against Gahanna. Mitchell also had five tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss.

Groveport will challenge the Raiders' defense with a wing-T running game that returns senior running backs Jalil Underdown and Jashaun McGraw. Last season, the Cruisers produced 3,605 rushing yards.

Aekins and Motton lead the wide receiver corps and senior center Leland Slaven and Mosley, who lines up at left tackle, are other key contributors for the Cruisers' offense.

"We want to be physical," Westcamp said. "We're running the offense suited for (McGraw and Underdown). McGraw is a load. ... Anytime you can get (Underdown) the ball you have a shot. You can't explain it, you can't coach it, he's just so naturally gifted in this sport and he always smiles."

julrey@thisweeknews.com

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WEEK 2

REYNOLDSBURG at GROVEPORT MADISON

*When: 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 4

*Last meeting: 2015, Reynoldsburg 38-7

*Reynoldsburg (1-0) to date: Defeated Gahanna 48-14

*Groveport (1-0) to date: Def. Westland 38-0

*Top Raiders: Justin Barko (WR/P), Kaleb Bernardin (OL/DL), Daniel Broomfield (RB), Terrell Burton (DL/OL), Dalton Hall (OL/DL), Dijon Jennings (QB), N'Rique Love (WR/DB), Ajani Preston (DB/RB) and Mekhai Woodfork (DL/RB)

*Top Cruisers: Elyjah Aekins (WR/DB), Te'Ron Coleman (SB), Clarence Gossett (LB), Jashaun McGraw (FB/DL), Makarius Mosley (OL/DL), John Motton (WR/DB), Isaiah Rogers (QB), Leland Slaven (OL) and Jalil Underdown (RB)