By Rick Palsgrove
(Editor’s note: I decided to proceed with this preview story about the Groveport Madison Cruiser football program so the community could read about the team even though the season is currently suspended due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Franklin County Public Health recommended shutting extracurricular activities down and therefore Groveport Madison suspended extracurricular activities pending until Franklin County Public Health and its established guidelines indicate it is safe to resume them.)
The Groveport Madison Cruisers football team is coming off last year’s championship season with confidence and a desire to achieve more.
This year the team moves into a new division in the Ohio Capital Conference, joining Central Crossing, Lancaster, Newark, Pickerington Central, and Reynoldsburg in the Buckeye Division.
“The new division will be no easy task for us,” said Cruiser head football coach Mitchell Westcamp. “It’s no secret how good the teams are in our division. The one thing that sticks out to us about every team in our league is how well coached each team will be. Our league obviously starts with Pickerington Central, they are the returning state champs, a team we have played every year. They are big, fast, and extremely well coached over there year in and year out.”
Westcamp said Reynoldsburg and Lancaster are two familiar opponents.
“Reynoldsburg can really match up well against us with their size and speed,” said Westcamp. “Lancaster is who they are every year. They are big, physical, strong, and coached up extremely well. We have only played Central Crossing a few times in the past 10 years and we already know those kids are going to play hard, fast, and disciplined. Newark is a team we play every year and we can really tell they are starting to make a turn there and we know they are going to give us their best when we play them. If we play our style of football, it can be really interesting who comes out on top this year in the new league.”
Westcamp said the Cruisers have several key players coming back from last year’s playoff team.
“This a deep senior class with a lot of starts and experience in this group,” said Westcamp.
He said top players include: running back Jalil Underdown; fullback Jashaun McGraw; defensive backs John Motton, Elyjah Aekins, and Delaney Wilburn; linebacker Clarence Gossett; and linemen Markarious Mosley, Kyle Gossett, Angel Solis, and Leland Slaven.
Westcamp a fun part of the schedule are the traditional rivalry games with Canal Winchester and Hamilton Township.
“Rivalries are a big reason why we play this game,” said Westcamp. “Very few games can match the atmosphere when we play them. Canal Winchester is a very talented team and are always well coached. They have some kids back this year that are going to be some of the best we will see all year and it’s going to take a team effort to come out on top again.What I can tell you about this game is it doesn’t matter how good either team is each year because we know when the game starts, we are going to get their best and they will get our best.”
Westcamp said football is important to a community.
“Football is what can bridge the relationship between the community and the school,” said Westcamp. “Our kids take a lot of pride in what we do and know what it means to put on the red and black every Friday night. I am a GMHS alumni and I still live in this community so I have seen what football can do for this community. This game has a way of bringing all different types of people together one night a week for a couple hours.”
In light of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Westcamp said various safety protocols were in place including: taking temperatures of all players and coaches when they arrived to the school; asking screening questions to each player to see if they had any symptoms; limiting the players in the weight room; closing the locker room this summer; requiring coaches to wear a mask at all times; requiring players to wear a mask when they arrive but were able to remove the mask on the field; having players bring their own water so they are not sharing; and maintaining social distancing for players when they are not in a specific drill.