Football: Veteran offensive line paves way for Groveport Madison's potent running game

Dave Purpura
ThisWeek group
Center Leland Slaven is a four-year starter for the Groveport Madison football team. The offensive line has paved the way for a successful running game for the Cruisers, who over the last two seasons have averaged 252.1 yards rushing per game and 6.13 yards per carry.

Groveport Madison football coach Mitch Westcamp expected his veteran offensive line to be one of the team’s strengths, but even he marvels at some of the statistics that unit has helped the Cruisers achieve.

Before the Cruisers finished the year Oct. 23 against Canal Winchester, they had rushed for 7,563 yards since the start of the 2018 season. They averaged 252.1 rushing yards per game and 6.13 per carry with 82 touchdowns.

This year’s returning starters – right guard Kyle Gossett, left guard Makarius Mosley, center Leland Slaven and right tackle Angel Solis – had combined to start 109 games. The 6-foot-2, 230-pound Slaven was a four-year starter and the 6-3, 250-pound Mosley did so for three, playing left tackle the past two seasons before moving to guard.

Junior left tackle Jaxson Kelly (5-11, 240) rounds out the line.

“We knew that would be the strength of our offense,” said Westcamp, whose team was 5-2 before playing the Indians. “Those guys have been blocking for (running backs) Jashaun (McGraw) and Jalil (Underdown) for three years pretty much. There is a lot of depth and experience there.

“Their biggest issue was getting complacent. They do know everything, but it’s one of those situations in the wing(-T) that you have to rep that day after day after day to really get it down. They’ve been doing it a long time. They know what they’re doing, but they don’t. It’s a case of getting better every day.”

Gossett (6-3, 295) was a guard until moving to tight end last year because Northwestern-commit Te-Rah Edwards was at guard. Gossett’s twin, Clarence, is one of the team's top linebackers.

“I’d give us a B-plus, especially with new players coming in and not having the same group we had last year,” Mosley said. “(Consistency) has been huge. We can pick up on different things during the game between each other that we already know.

"Maybe one person likes to block this way in a certain situation, so I can do this or that. We can change our game plan on the line throughout the game and don’t have to necessarily communicate to each other.”

Groveport was seeded fourth in the Division I, Region 3 playoffs but lost to 13th-seeded Hilliard Bradley 28-7 in the first round Oct. 9. They finished the year with two regular-season games, edging visiting Independence 17-14 on Oct. 16 before playing the Indians, a game that originally was the opener before the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic forced scheduling changes.

Groveport missed a Sept. 25 game against Newark because of a two-week quarantine that affected the offensive line as well as some of the coaching staff.

“That was devastating for everybody, but it’s great to be back,” said Solis, a 6-foot, 290-pound senior and two-year starter. “We’ve been improving off the ball all year, getting faster and making plays.”

Gossett said the Cruisers being primarily a running team forces the line to be at its best.

“You have to just be more physical than other teams,” he said. “You don’t have the situation where you’re dropping back to pass a lot and maybe it’s not quite as physical (on a given play). You have to attack and be aggressive.”

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave