By Rick Palsgrove
The Groveport Madison Cruiser football squad is eager to take on the tough Ohio Capital Conference Buckeye Division this season.
“Playing in the OCC will test you as a player and coach,” said Cruiser head varsity football coach Mitchell Westcamp. “Our division starts with Pickerington Central, and it’s no secret how good they have been these past few years. If you want to get out of our region, you have to go through them. They are as complete as a team we will face, but at the same time, we want to play them.”
Westcamp said that, after Pickerington Central, Reynoldsburg and Lancaster will be tough matchups for anybody they play.
“Reynoldsburg looks to be explosive on offense with the return of their quarterback and Lancaster brings a physicality to the game that many can’t match,” said Westcamp. “Central Crossing played us really well last year and has some really good young guys coming up. Unfortunately we were unable to play Newark last year, but have played them over the years and know they will play with a lot of energy.”
Westcamp likes the Cruisers’ prospects this season.
“We have to play our style of football.” said Westcamp. “Offensively we need to continue to be the most physical team on the field. It’s no secret we don’t like to play the finesse game offensively and want to run the ball. If we can take care of the football, time of possession, and capitalize on opportunities we are going to have a good chance to win some games.”
He said defensively the Cruisers have to play sound and not give up the big plays.
“We want to force teams to drive the ball on us and give them the opportunity to make a mistake,” said Westcamp. “Overall this is going to be a much younger and inexperienced team than our previous two seasons. Our goal is to keep getting better each week so we peak at the end of the season rather than early.”
Westcamp said some key players on this year’s Cruiser team include senior free safety Delaney Wilburn, who was second team all-state in 2020; senior offensive and defensive lineman Jordan Ramella; senior defensive end Tahj’wan Moss; senior linebacker Brayden Gautier; senior wide receiver and defensive back JaiLon Ricks; junior linebacker Mike Robinson; junior offensive and defensive lineman Cameron Spencer; sophomore fullback Keyon Shaver; and sophomore defensive back and slotback Jace Nincehelser.
“We will be running our Wing-T offense,” said Westcamp. “We believe we have some athletic quarterbacks coming in this season so there’s a possibility we could run some gun formations but still with the Wing-T principles. Defensively we are going to a 4-2-5. We are extremely deep at the skilled positions and feel we have a lot of guys that can rotate in on Friday nights.”
Though Groveport Madison is no longer in the same OCC division as traditional rival Canal Winchester, the Cruisers will still play the Indians this year in the season opener on Aug. 20 in Canal Winchester.
The Cruisers hold a 18-14 lead over the Indians in the teams’ all time series. (Editor’s note: The Aug. 20 game between the two teams was played after this edition of the Messenger had already gone to press.)
Westcamp is glad that Canal Winchester is still on the schedule.
“One of the many reasons that makes football great is having rivalries,” said Westcamp. “It’s no secret that they don’t like us and we don’t like them so we know it will be a fight week one against them. We already know we are going to get their best and they will get ours in return. We are excited because we know these games are good for both communities and brings out a lot of people to watch the game.”
This year’s Cruiser football schedule (all games start at 7 p.m.): Aug. 20 at Canal Winchester; Aug. 27 Gahanna; Sept. 3 at Worthington Kilbourne; Sept. 10 at Westland; Sept. 17 Dublin Coffman; Sept. 24 at Reynoldsburg; Oct. 1 Lancaster; Oct. 8 at Pickerington Central; Oct. 15 Newark; Oct. 22 at Central Crossing.