By Rick Palsgrove
The Groveport Madison Cruisers football team steamrolled its way through opponents to win a share of the 2019 Ohio Capital Conference Capital Division football championship.
Cruisers are champions
The Cruisers, Canal Winchester, and New Albany shared the championship, all with 4-1 league records.
The Cruisers finished the regular season 8-2 overall in winning the school’s first football title in 37 years. The team won with a multi-faceted running attack featuring the speed and power of Jalil Underdown, Emmanuel Anthony, and Jashaun McGraw; formidable offensive and defensive line play; stingy defense; a high scoring offense; steady quarterbacking by Colin Rice; and the sure-footed placekicking of Austin Snyder.
The victorious ascent to the title comes just two years after the Cruisers suffered through on 0-10 season.
“There is a lot to be proud of with this football team,” said Groveport Madison Athletic Director Steve Petros. “This is a group of players and coaches who have experienced the lowest of lows but stuck together, kept working and are now experiencing a high level of success. In today’s current culture of athletes quitting or transferring, this group stuck together and worked their way into a championship team. On top of the success on the field, their classroom performance has been just as impressive. They are the ultimate example of why it’s great to be a Cruiser!”‘
Schoonover said the strength of this years team has been its senior leadership.
“We have been a mature football team with a lot of game experience,” said Schoonover. “All of these guys have played a lot of meaningful downs on Friday nights, and that experience has helped tremendously throughout the season.”
When asked what players he thinks have had a great season, Schoonover said,
“There are so many I could name that list could be extremely long. I think some that stand out are Jasiyah Robinson, Emmanuel Anthony, Te-Rah Edwards, Darrell Smoot, Nick Wheeler, Skylar Mouser, Jashaun McGraw, Ryan Burke, Allen Joyce, Austin Snyder, and Jalil Underdown. These are the guys who you probably read the most about. It’s a little unfair not to mention so many other guys. It has truly been a team effort across the board, in all phases of the game.”
In a season full of victories there are many highlights.
“If you ask the kids they are going to tell you beating Pickerington Central and Canal at home, winning the league, and hosting a playoff game are the biggest highlights,” said Schoonover. “I think, though, the highlight for me has been seeing these guys have a lot of fun playing high school football. It’s been a truly special experience.”
Winning the OCC Capital title means a lot to the team and its supporters.
“It’s a huge accomplishment,” said Schoonover.”We’ve talked about this for sometime. It’s been 37 years since we’ve won a conference title in football, so across the board everyone involved in our program is thrilled. I believe the future of Cruiser football is very bright. We have a lot of great kids in our younger grades. I believe this year seniors have set a standard the younger kids are wanting to maintain and I believe we have the needed community support to help this program continue to build. It truly is a great time to be a Cruiser.”
Victory in state playoff quarterfinal
The Cruisers (now 9-2) staged a miraculous comeback to defeat the Hilliard Davidson Wildcats (now 7-4) 18-17 on Nov. 8 at Groveport Madison’s Cruiser Stadium in a Division 2 Regional Quarterfinals. It was the first home state playoff game in Cruiser history.
The two teams battled to a scoreless first half tie, but, as the hard fought game wore on and the night air got colder, the game got hotter. After falling behind in the second half, the Cruisers exploded for 18 points in about a four minute span in the fourth quarter to gain the victory.
The Cruisers’ Underdown scored on runs of 4 yards and 95 yards. Then, following a successful onside kick by the Cruisers and with seconds remaining on the clock, quarterback Colin Rice tossed a 7-yard touchdown pass to R’rion Cobb to secure the win in what will be remembered as one of the greatest come from behind wins in Cruiser football history.
Schoonover called it “a hard fought, old school football game.”
“Neither team throws the ball very much, so possessions were limited, and we needed to take advantage of each opportunity we had,” said Schoonover. “Hilliard Davidson has been one of the top programs in the state for a very long time and we needed to be at our best.”
The Cruisers now face Olentangy Liberty (10-1) in the Division 1 Regional semi-finals on Nov. 15 at 7 p.m. at Gahanna. The Cruisers will be seeking to avenge their 21-14 loss to Olentangy Liberty on Sept. 27.
Cruiser football history
The 2019 Cruiser football team ranks right up there with some of the great, storied Cruiser teams of the past such as: the 1924 team which finished 8-0 with six shut outs and outscored its opponents 254-8 in winning the Franklin County League title; the 1929 team which finished 7-1-1 with six shut outs in winning the Franklin County League title; the 1944 team which finished 7-1 with six shut outs and featured Cruiser Athletic Hall of Famer Kenny Zarbaugh’s feat of scoring six touchdowns in a game in a 64-0 romp over Liberty Union on the team’s way to winning the Franklin County League title; one of the most complete Cruiser teams ever assembled, the 1963 Mid-8 League champions went 8-0-1 and boasted a dominating defense and an unstoppable offense with four shut outs and outscoring its opponents 243-41 (this team is in the Cruiser Athletic Hall of Fame); the Mid-8 League champions of 1971, a defensive powerhouse which finished 7-1-1 with five shut outs and the 1973 Mid-8 champs who finished 7-1-1 and was known for its scrappy personality with a talent for winning close, pressure packed games; the 1982 team that finished 7-2-1 and was the last team to win a league title until this season; and the talented 1988 state playoff team went that 8-2 and included players from 1986-88 that went 25-5 with two state playoff appearances.
Groveport Madison was in the state football playoffs in 1986, 1988, and 2007. The Cruisers overall state football playoff record is 1-3. The 2007 team with running back Le’Veon Bell was the only team to win a post-season tournament game. They lost in round two.