Cruisers playoff bound

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 Photo courtesy of the Groveport Madison School District
 Kevin Castle rings the victory bell outside of Cruiser Stadium following the Groveport Madison Cruisers’ 34-17 upset of highly ranked Hilliard Darby on Oct. 26. The victory propelled the 7-3 Cruisers into the state high school football playoffs for the first time since 1988.

The victory bell at Cruiser Stadium rang loud and long on the night of Oct. 26 after the Groveport Madison Cruisers defeated previously unbeaten and highly ranked Hilliard Darby 34-17.

The win put the 7-3 Cruisers into the state high school football playoffs for the first time since 1988 where they’ll travel to Brookhaven on Nov. 3 to face the 9-1 Bearcats at 7 p.m.

The Cruiser defense stampeded over Hilliard Darby forcing eight turnovers.

"No one expects to get eight turnovers," said Cruiser Head Coach Tim Brown. "Our defense put a lot of pressure up front and gave the Darby quarterback a rough night. Our kids executed well."

The offense joined in the fun, too, with Nick Goodrich scoring on touchdown runs of one and 16 yards; Leveon Bell hitting pay dirt with two yard run; and quarterback Jordan Elmore scoring on a four yard run and pitching a five yard touchdown pass to Bell.

A program on the upswing

In an interview Oct. 29, Brown said an increase in manpower and a focus on academics were factors in the Cruisers’ success this year.

"We started the year with 84 players," said Brown. "Last year we started with 44."

He said the coaches and players put forth a concerted effort to build the program, including instituting study tables, providing tutors, and building a sense of family for the team and a sense of unity with the community.

"We want kids to realize they’re important and to be part of our family," said Brown. "We’re not here to just teach football, but to teach life as well."

"Our senior class have been good leaders," continued Brown. "They’ve helped convince others that playing football will make their high school experience better."

Brown said the win over Hilliard Darby was the result of the positive efforts to build the program.

"You saw what that victory meant to the community. After the game the crowd stormed the field and people stayed at the stadium for hours afterward with smiles on their faces. It was fun to see the community come together and enjoy the success," said Brown.

A season of success

Brown said a strength of this year’s football squad is its defense.

"Our defense has a lot of speed and a lot of heart. They kept people out of the end zone all year," said Brown.

On offense, he said an experienced offensive line lead the way.

He said the team realized they had the potential for big things this year early in the season with wins over Pickerington North and Dublin Jerome. But it was a double overtime loss to the always tough Pickerington Central Tigers that proved to the Cruisers they were capable of playing with the elite teams.

"After that game we knew we could play at a different level this year, that we could play against anyone and win," said Brown.

A bright future

Brown is looking for the Cruisers to continue their success against a strong Brookhaven team in the first round of the state playoffs.

But he added the future of the program also looks good for upcoming years.

"We have a lot of juniors and sophomores back next year," Brown said.

Plus the eighth grade team went undefeated this season.

"We’re building a program and, if the players keep their grades up and their noses clean and put forth the effort on the field, our future looks bright," said Brown.

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