Pickerington Central at Groveport Madison: Tigers, Cruisers set for battle to stay atop OCC-Buckeye

DAVE PURPURA
dpurpura@thisweeknews.com
Pickerington Central's Nick Mosley looks to get by Groveport's Elyjah Aekins during the Division I, Region 3 final last season. The teams meet again Friday, Sept. 18, at Groveport.

The Groveport Madison and Pickerington Central football teams don’t have to be reminded of the importance of this week.

The Cruisers and Tigers have played annually for decades in a series dominated by Central — until last year, when Groveport shocked the Tigers 19-14 to break a 28-game losing streak against their longtime foe.

Central won the rematch nine weeks later, 23-7 in a Division I regional final en route to capturing its second state championship in three years.

Even then, the teams knew they would meet again this season, as both now are members of the OCC-Buckeye Division.

Central will travel to Groveport on Friday, Sept. 18, for a showdown between teams that are 3-0 overall and 2-0 in the league.

“If anything, they’re even more confident than last year,” Tigers coach Jay Sharrett said. “When you have that type of mentality and players know what it takes to win, that breeds a lot of confidence. Now that we’re three games in, we can put together a better game plan and so can they.

“They have three games (worth of film) on us and we have three on them. They’re quick and elusive defensively and offensively. They’re going to come right at you.”

Both teams continue to rely heavily on the run.

Of Central’s 984 total yards, 808 have come on the ground. Groveport, which uses the wing-T, has gained 874 of its 941 yards rushing.

Bowling Green commit Nick Mosley has rushed for 241 yards and seven touchdowns on 46 carries to lead a Central offense that has outscored its opponents 131-9. Mosley had 67 yards and a score on 13 carries Sept. 11 as the Tigers routed visiting Central Crossing 47-0.

Coupled with a 49-0 win at Newark on Sept. 4, Central has posted consecutive shutouts for the first time since 2011. The defense is led in part by lineman C.J. Doggette, Notre Dame commit Lorenzo Styles Jr. at defensive back and his younger brother, defensive back Sonny Styles.

“I thought ‘Meechie’ (graduated Central quarterback Demeatric Crenshaw) was the best high school player I’ve ever seen and it’s certainly tough to replace him, but other than losing him, I think they’re better than they were last year,” Cruisers coach Mitch Westcamp said. “Their defensive line is big. They fire off the ball. You try to get over them and then you have the Styles brothers (in the secondary). Our job is to try to find holes. They’re talented in every single area.”

Slotback Jalil Underdown paces Groveport’s ground game with 485 yards and six touchdowns on 42 carries, in addition to one catch for 39 yards. Fullback Jashaun McGraw has 48 carries for 250 yards and three scores.

McGraw had 18 carries for 81 yards and two scores Sept. 11 as the Cruisers edged host Lancaster 16-13 and broke a 16-game losing streak against the Golden Gales. McGraw’s 20-yard touchdown run with 9 minutes, 5 seconds left was the game-winner and came immediately after a muffed punt.

Central leads the series 30-9. This will be the teams’ first meeting as league foes since 2015, when both were in the OCC-Ohio.

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave

WEEK 4

PICKERINGTON CENTRAL at GROVEPORT MADISON

•When: 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 18

•Last meeting: 2019, Central 23-7

•Central (3-0 overall, 2-0 in OCC-Buckeye) to date: Defeated Pickerington North 35-9; def. Newark 49-0; def. Central Crossing 47-0

•Groveport (3-0 overall, 2-0 in OCC-Buckeye) to date: Def. Westland 38-0; def. Reynoldsburg 45-14; def. Lancaster 16-13

•Top Tigers: C.J. Doggette (DL), William Dukes IV (LB), Nick Mosley (RB), A.J. Sanders (DB), Sirron Smith (DB/RB), Keaton Snyder (OL), Lorenzo Styles Jr. (WR/DB), Sonny Styles (WR/DB) and Garner Wallace (QB)

•Top Cruisers: Elyjah Aekins (WR/DB), Brayden Gautier (LB), Clarence Gossett (LB), Leland Slaven (OL), Jashaun McGraw (FB/DL), Makarius Mosley (OL/DL), John Motton (WR/DB), Isaiah Rogers (QB) and Jalil Underdown (RB)