By Rick Palsgrove
The Groveport Madison Cruisers’ quest for a state football title has come to an end.
Recaps of playoff games
•The Cruisers defeated Olentangy Liberty 13-7 on Nov. 15 in the Division 1 regional semi-finals. Jalil Underdown scored on a 4-yard touchdown run and Emmanuel Anthony scored the winning touchdown on a 2-yard run for the Cruisers. The lone blemish in the game was Olentangy Liberty’s 71-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter.
With the win, the Cruisers avenged a 21-14 loss to Olentangy Liberty on Sept. 27. The victory also set a Cruiser football school record for 10 wins in a season.
Groveport City Councilman Ed Dildine, who played football for the Cruisers in the late 1980s, said, “The team played a heckuva football game against Olentangy Liberty. Groveport’s defense was stout! To be one of the top teams in the state is a real accomplishment.”
•The Ohio Capital Conference Capital Division champion Cruisers then faced Pickerington Central Tigers in the Division 1 regional final on Nov. 22 at DeSales High School in first ever appearance in a regional football final The Cruisers had defeated Pickerington Central 19-14 on Sept. 20, but in the regional final the Tigers downed the Cruisers 23-7.
The Tigers’ offense scored all 23 of their points in the second quarter while their defense shut down the Cruisers’ running attack in the first half by packing the line of scrimmage with defenders. They held the Cruisers without a first down in the first half.
The Cruisers bounced back a bit in the second half as their defense prevented the Tigers from any further scoring and, in the third quarter, the offense put together a 70-yard drive capped by a 14-yard touchdown run by Underdown that showcased both his speed and power. But that was the only score the Cruisers could muster. Groveport Madison finished the season 10-3 and Pickerington Central moved on to the state semi-finals.
Thoughts on the season
“Our senior group has been through a lot over the years,” said Cruiser Head Coach Bryan Schoonover. “These guys stuck together, stayed the course, and formed a strong bond. Our players and coaching staff understand and appreciate Groveport Madison’s football history. They’re an exciting, fun, and great group to coach.”
One of this team’s many strengths was the play of its offensive and defensive lines, which Schoonover said can be attributed to both talent and dedicated work by the players.
“We have some grinders who work hard all year in the weight room and on the practice field so they will be able to play and have success on game nights,” said Schoonover.
The defense clamped down on and stymied opposing offenses as the Cruisers shut out four opponents this season and allowed three other opponents to only one score.
The Cruisers’ high powered offense scored more than 30 points in a game six times this season. The offense had both a quick strike capability to score from anywhere on the field at any time (as evidenced by the two 90-plus yard touchdown runs this season by running backs Emmanuel Anthony and Jalil Underdown) and the power to grind down opponents with long drives with the power running of Jashuan McGraw.
Regarding the team’s success this season, Schoonover said, “We focus on the day-to-day and the players enjoy each other. They will always have the experiences and memories of their successes and time together.”
The 2019 Cruisers will be thought of as one of the greatest, maybe even the greatest football team, in Groveport Madison history.
“Our seniors want to leave a lasting legacy,” said Schoonover. “They’ve certainly done that.”