By Rick Palsgrove
Mother Nature supplied the lightning but the Cruisers brought the thunder as Groveport Madison defeated the Pickerington Central Tigers 19-14 on Sept. 20 at Cruiser Stadium.
Both teams entered the game undefeated. It was an exhilarating win and purged years of frustration for the Cruisers as the Tigers were ranked third in the state at the time and had won the previous 28 meetings between the two teams.
The Cruisers pounded the Tigers with a relentless running attack featuring the power of Jashaun McGraw and the speed of Jalil Underdown and Emmanuel Anthony. McGraw scored on a 3-yard touchdown run in the first quarter and Anthony speedily swept around the right side and scored the winning touchdown on a 19-yard run in the fourth quarter.
Cruiser placekicker Austin Snyder added two field goals of 34 and 23 yards during the game plus an extra point. The Cruisers had two touchdowns negated by penalties. The Cruiser defense swarmed and harassed Tiger quarterback Demeatric Crenshaw most of the game. Additionally, Cruiser Jasiyah Robinson blocked a Tiger punt and the Cruisers recovered the ball near the goal line that led to a score.
When the game ended, happy Cruiser fans ran onto the field to celebrate with the team.
Cruiser Head Coach Bryan Schoonover credited the team’s effort and dedication for the win and, when asked by well wishers following the game to describe the victory, he said, “That was awesome!”
As he said this, in the distance one could hear the Cruiser victory bell ringing out.
The lightning delay
With about five minutes remaining in the second quarter, lightning was spotted a few miles to the north and officials cleared Cruiser Stadium and delayed the game until the threat had passed.
In a quick and orderly manner, the mass of humanity – including the teams, bands, cheerleaders, fans, and administrators – evacuated and sought shelter outside of the stadium. Many went inside to the high school’s commons area or to their cars to wait out the lightning delay, but, since it was not raining, many lingered outside.
Without the sounds of cheering fans, band music, and boisterous cheerleaders, it was quiet enough to hear insects chirping along the tree line of nearby Blacklick Creek.
Fans settled in to wait out the lightning delay, which lasted about an hour. Little kids happily ran about tossing a toy football or leapfrogging over metal posts. High school kids hung out and talked together. There was laughter and happy voices as adults talked to pass the time. High school football Friday nights, after all, are social occasions and people did not let the lightning threat stop the community experience. The lights of the stadium and scoreboard remained on and were complemented by the soft lights of people’s cell phones as they checked for weather updates.
When officials announced it was all clear and the game would go on, a cheer went up from the crowd and everyone resumed their places in the stadium, except for both school bands who had to leave as they were set to perform in band competitions the next day.
Athletics, music, and the arts have the power to bring communities together and a little weather cannot dampen that.
The Cruisers play at Olentangy Liberty on Sept. 27. They then are slated to play at Franklin Heights on Oct. 4 and at home Oct. 11 against neighborhood rival Canal Winchester. All games are at 7 p.m.