It was Senior and Veterans’ night at Big Walnut, and despite heartfelt tributes to both, the Golden Eagles lost their final home game of the season to Groveport Madison, 35-14.
There was something unusual about the cold and windy night to begin with — the colorful scoreboard wasn’t on while the seniors walked on the field with their families.
“Scoreboard last night worked just fine and there were no issues,” said athletic director Brian Shelton in an email on Oct. 22. “The issue was that AEP had a blown transformer that knocked power out to multiple sources and the scoreboard was on that circuit. AEP is telling us it will take up to 5 days to get a new transformer installed.”
The field lights and sound system still worked, and local singer Tammy Knight did a fine unaccompanied rendition of God Bless the USA.
Because the scoreboard wasn’t working, the officials kept time on the field, leaving fans and the announcer in the dark. Another unusual thing — three police cars provided an escort for two school buses. It turned out those buses carried the Eagles players, who practiced over at JR Smith Park because the home field was muddy and getting tore up.
The Eagles got off to a flying start, leading 7-0 after their first possession when running back David Hunt took it in from the left side 12 yards out untouched. Tyler Shuster added the extra point with about 8:30 to go in the first. Groveport returned the favor when senior running back Malik Jolly bowled over Big Walnut defenders on a two-yard run. Luis Hernandez tacked on the point after touchdown to tie the game at 7-apiece midway through the opening quarter.
In the second quarter, a Big Walnut touchdown run was called back on a holding penalty. A 32-yard field goal attempt was just short. Groveport capitalized, with junior quarterback Jacob Huffman running right 15 yards for a touchdown. A couple minutes later on their next drive, Huffman dove in from a yard out to make it 21-7 Cruisers.
Big Walnut’s best senior performance came from two-way player Evan Garcia. He ran a few times, but as a defensive back, he intercepted a Hail Mary pass in the end zone to end the first half, and recovered a Cruiser fumble in the second half.
The third quarter began with an unsuccessful onside kick by the Eagles — it looked like a good recovery, but the refs saw some illegal touching. There were many penalties called on this night, upsetting the home crowd. Groveport again cashed in when Huffman completed a short pass to junior wide receiver Izayah Aekins, who split the Eagles defenders on his way to a 35-yard touchdown. It was now 28-7 a couple minutes into the third.
However, Big Walnut responded with a good drive, drawing two personal foul penalties on the Cruisers. Hunt scored on a two-yard dash, making it 28-14 midway in the third.
That was as close as the Golden Eagles could get, though. Driving towards a score, quarterback Tyler Ronk was blindsided and linebacker Kyle Duty recovered for the Cruisers. On another attempt on fourth down, cornerback Eric Grant broke up a pass by Ronk.
A tired Big Walnut defense had trouble bringing down senior running back Corey Newman in the second half. Newman scored on a six-yard scamper to give Groveport its final score; and he nearly had another touchdown as time wound down.
Groveport’s record is now 5-3. Big Walnut will travel to Canal Winchester next week in search of a second victory to close out the season.