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Groveport Madison Roundup: Backfield duo feature blend of speed, power

DAVE PURPURA
dpurpura@thisweeknews.com
Groveport Madison's Jalil Underdown races to the end zone for a touchdown during a 45-14 rout of visiting Reynoldsburg on Sept. 4. Underdown and senior classmate Jashaun McGraw have led a dominant running game for the Cruisers, who rushed for 953 yards while attempting just 11 passes in their first four games.

Jalil Underdown had to chuckle in describing his backfield mate with the Groveport Madison football team, Jashaun McGraw.

"He's just like a big old truck you can't stop," said Underdown, a 5-foot-9, 185-pound slotback. "He helps us out, especially on big third-down plays and blocking. It's always been like that."

Likewise, one word immediately sprung to mind when 5-11, 240-pound fullback McGraw summarized Underdown.

"He brings speed. That brings more energy to everybody else when you see one of your teammates bursting down the sideline and no one can catch him," McGraw said. "We've been clicking since eighth grade. This is nothing new to us."

Friends since elementary school and teammates since seventh grade, the senior duo have been among the leaders of the program's recent turnaround and a 3-1 start to this season entering a Friday, Sept. 25, game at Newark. They also are in a race toward the program's rushing record, as Underdown is 254 yards away and McGraw 403 shy of Daryl Royal's career record of 2,648.

Underdown has rushed for 515 yards and six touchdowns on 126 carries and caught one pass for 39 yards. McGraw, who has recovered from a broken collarbone suffered last winter, has 64 carries for 301 yards and three scores.

"When you just go under center in high school football and run right at (an opponent), you have a shot," coach Mitch Westcamp said. "You always hear that phrase 'thunder and lightning backs' and I think we have that. We have the ability to switch them. Jalil can play fullback and Jashaun can play some wing. We've practiced it for three years but we haven't done it because we haven't had to.

"Those guys are always playing for each other and the rest of the team. (At Lancaster on Sept. 11), Jalil was blocking half the night for Jashaun and vice-versa. He's a little bigger in pads than what people realize. He does push-ups every day. He's probably 200 or 205 when he's in pads and that's how he plays."

Groveport has attempted only 11 passes and 953 of its 1,020 total yards have come on the ground.

Royal rushed for 1,890 yards and 16 touchdowns as a senior in 1993. Those numbers helped him earn a scholarship to Cincinnati, where he totaled 1,967 all-purpose yards and nine touchdowns from 1994-97.

McGraw and Underdown hope college coaches take similar notice of their efforts.

Underdown said he has double-digit offers but has lost exact count. McGraw is receiving interest from several Division I and II schools but had yet to receive any offers entering the week.

Partly to increase his attractiveness to colleges, McGraw has played defensive end in select situations this season.

"However many (the offers), it's not enough," said Westcamp, whose team's undefeated start ended Sept. 18 with a 43-3 home loss to defending Division I state champion Pickerington Central in OCC-Buckeye Division play. "Jashaun will probably play more defense in college. Not a lot of colleges have a true fullback in their offense any more.

"Jalil, we think he's hands-down one of the best wing-T backs that we've seen and that's (because) of his ability to do everything."

DeMatteo steps up for girls squad

The girls soccer team was 2-4 overall and 0-1 in the OCC-Buckeye before playing Lancaster on Sept. 22, and while the Cruisers hoped to both find consistency and exceed their win total from last year, coach Mark Coyer already is pleased with a few aspects of his team's play.

Lyla Khanthachack had seven of Groveport's 10 goals through six games. Four of them came in a 6-0 win at Hamilton Township on Sept. 10, a game in which midfielder Shelby DeMatteo recorded three assists.

DeMatteo was a defender last year but has moved to outside midfielder.

"Shelby is a good player who is really starting to stand out," Coyer said. "She played travel but I don't know that we had her in the right position (before this season). Just messing around and moving her around to where she felt comfortable has ended up being fantastic. We knew we needed her outside because we play our best crossing passes in, so we needed an outside mid who was good."

Both of Groveport's wins before Sept. 22 were shutouts, the other being a season-opening 1-0 win over Teays Valley on Aug. 22. Nicole Mohler and Jennifer Perez had the other goals against the Rangers.

"Our defense is improving," Coyer said. "We'll have to build on what we did with Hamilton, playing the ball outside."

The Cruisers lost 8-3 at Reynoldsburg in their OCC-Buckeye opener Sept. 15.

Boys golfers work to improve

The boys golf team is finishing the season with four players who are at various stages of learning the game and what comes with competition.

Junior Price Cooper was Groveport's only entrant in the four-round OCC-Buckeye tournament, but freshmen Patrick Bean and Luke Childers have joined the lineup and seventh-grader Ty Cooper also is participating in non-league matches.

Price Cooper averaged 123 in league play.

"We're just plugging away with nine-hole matches at this point and trying to get better," said coach Joe Rinkes, who originally had 11 students at tryouts but saw that number dwindle because of various factors. "There's been improvement and more is coming, not just in scores but in terms of etiquette, club usage, when to hit, pace of play, things like that. It's more about just learning the game. They'll get better."

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave

Shelby DeMatteo (right) has been among the contributors for the Cruisers girls soccer team, which was 2-4 overall and 0-1 in the OCC-Buckeye before playing Lancaster on Sept. 22.