By Rick Palsgrove
The Groveport Madison Cruisers are continuing their quest for a state title.
The Cruisers (10-2) 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 is stout! To be one of the top teams in the state is a real accomplishment.”
The Ohio Capital Conference Capital Division champion Cruisers will now face Pickerington Central (11-1) in the Division 1 regional final on Nov. 22 at 7 p.m. at DeSales High School. The Cruisers defeated Pickerington Central 19-14 on Sept. 20. It will be Groveport Madison’s first ever appearance in a regional football final.
“Our senior group has been through a lot over the years,” said Cruiser Head Coach Bryan Schoonover. “These guys have stuck together, stayed the course, and formed a strong bond. Our players and coaching staff have an understanding and appreciation of Groveport Madison’s football history. They’re an exciting, fun, and great group to coach.”
One of this team’s many strengths is 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 clamps down on and stymies opposing offenses as the Cruisers have shut out four opponents this year and allowed three other opponents to only one score.
The high powered offense has scored more than 30 points in a game six times this season. The offense has 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. We still have a lot of work to do this season.”
A win over Pickerington Central on Nov. 22 would earn the Cruisers a spot as one of the final four teams in the state championship playoffs. The Cruisers would play in the state semi-finals on Nov. 29 at a neutral site. A semi-final win would place the Cruisers in the Division 1 state championship game in Canton that would be played sometime between Dec. 5-7.
Regardless of the results of these upcoming playoff games, the 2019 Cruisers will be thought of as one of the greatest, if not the greatest, football teams in Groveport Madison history.
“Our seniors want to leave a lasting legacy,” said Schoonover. “They’ve certainly done that.”