South Granville High School in Creedmoor, North Carolina, provides an exceptional educational experience with rigorous academics and an engaging athletics program that promotes teamwork and sportsmanship.
Granville used an aggressive defense to shut out Clear Fork 15-0 on August 25, then their offense quickly raced ahead in the second quarter and established an enormous lead.
The Blue Aces offense is formidable. Senior quarterback Isaac Maurer has amassed 1,139 yards and 18 touchdowns through two games, and its veteran receiving corps includes seniors Ajay Alderman (48 receptions, 501 yards, eight touchdowns), Brock Hill (17 receptions, 463 yards), and Hunter Orth (18 receptions, 142 yards, five touchdowns). Together, these individuals possess incredible speed and athleticism that allow the Blue Aces’ offense to dominate opponents with ease.
Tri-Valley Scotties started strong against the Blue Aces, driving downfield efficiently on their opening drive before an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty forced them to punt. On their subsequent kickoff return, Jayden Wallace ran all the way back to Granville’s 6-yard line before diving in from there for an early 7-0 lead.
South Granville senior quarterback Matt McCutcheon quickly struck on their second play of the game when sophomore wide receiver Dante Varrasso connected on a 42-yard gain via a slant route, – which took them past midfield and past the midway point of their opponent’s field of play. Shortly after that, an impressive long completion to sophomore running back Jakob Culver set up a third down conversion and resulted in an 8-yard touchdown pass from senior QB Matt McCutcheon to junior tight end Jack Yeager, giving South Granville a 13-0 advantage at the end of the first quarter play.
Granville kept up the pressure against the Panthers and, on just their fourth play of the first half, Maurer connected with Alderman for a 66-yard touchdown reception that earned a two-point conversion, giving Granville an early two-point lead of 21-0 going into halftime.
After a scoreless third quarter, Granville put away their opponents in the final period under running clock conditions. Granville displayed its best offensive effort of the year as Maurer connected with Alderman for an eight-yard strike and Orth for a 76-yard catch; running backs McCutcheon, Corey Lomena, and Kyle Kirby combined for nearly 100 yards in a ground attack.
The Blue Aces will take on Licking County League foe Johnstown this Friday at Walter J. Hodges Stadium with an offensive strategy that gives them an advantage against its top-ranked competition.
Granville maintained their undefeated record thanks to an outstanding defensive effort that enabled them to hold off Clear Fork and remain unbeaten. Senior defensive back Dante Varrasso stood out among numerous Blue Aces (2-0). He made a one-handed pick near the sideline that won them the game; his presence could be felt throughout this contest.
Granville’s young defense, led by Kyle Kirby and Drew Vahalik as linebackers, suffocated the Colt’s run game up the middle while providing excellent coverage on the outside – not to mention numerous turnovers, which contributed to its excellent overall performance.
Granville displayed its defensive prowess during its 41-0 victory against Zanesville on Oct. 6, extending their lead from 10-0 after one quarter with Carsyn Crouch scoring on a 66-yard touchdown run upon returning from injury.
After a fumble by a Granville defender allowed the Blue Devils to score with an early drive, Granville’s defense continued its dominance by forcing a fumble during its subsequent movement before keeping Zanesville at bay for the remainder of the matchup.
Tri-Valley will present the Blue Aces with their first significant challenge on Friday, Sept 16, when they host them, a team that has averaged nearly 48 points per game in its two victories thus far. Jayden Wallace leads Tri-Valley as its Muskingum Valley League-leading rusher with 1,596 yards and 20 touchdowns, while Keaton Hahn boasts 29 receptions for eight touchdowns while running back Ashton Sensibaugh has 266 rushing yards with six scores as part of their lineup.
Jeff Eastman leads the Blue Aces’ defense as assistant coach and defensive coordinator. With 20 years of collegiate coaching experience at Austin Peay State University over nine seasons as defensive coordinator, linebackers coach, and safeties coach, Eastman has helped elevate this young defense to new levels while being an excellent motivator and integral component to its recent success.
Granville-Whitehall football team’s success last season, their inaugural year since merging, can be attributed to its team spirit. Seniors Alex Engle and Leelan Durham have played an instrumental role in creating this atmosphere of togetherness: Wes Schroeder commented, “They are wonderful kids that put team first while having a fantastic work ethic.”
These same players and several others have helped propel the Blue Aces to an incredible 7-1 start this season, led by their special teams and offense. Although the crime has drawn most of the attention, special teams are an integral component to early-season success – Craig Zies handles kicking duties for this team as he holds PAT kicks reliably while providing good field goal range and kickoff returns with extended returns.
Schroeder and his staff have employed innovative strategies on special teams to keep opponents guessing. From using the muddle huddle for PATs to squibbing and onside kicking, Schroeder’s Blue Aces do everything possible to make life harder for opponents and ensure they never know what’s coming next.
The Blue Aces have seen great success this year on special teams, especially when facing Linden on the road 38-16. A relentless defensive effort led by linebackers Caden Rosendahl and Cash Thomas, along with defensive backs Gage Wymer and Zach Schilling, prevented Linden from scoring any points at all.
Granville-Whitehall will host Cambridge-Salem for their season-opening matchup this Sunday at Sam Eppolito Field at 2 p.m. in Class D Cambridge-Salem after defeating them 18-6 in an exciting contest last season at Sam Eppolito Field. Next, they head north for their inaugural Class C North matchup against Rensselaer’s Rams (6-3 last season) before closing out Week 0 of 2018 by traveling south for Cobleskill-Richmondville!
Gebo is excited for a successful new season and feels the program has made strides forward. He remembers when the stands were filled for every game in the valley, hoping that this year can see that same enthusiasm return – “we want to bring back that feeling of unity between two communities,” he stated, adding, “That is why all this work must continue.”
Gebo, who graduated from Granville High School in 1985 and began coaching in 1989, has taken over for longtime coach Mike Hensley, who recently announced his resignation. Now in his fourth season as head coach at Granville, Gebo continues his efforts at his current job with enthusiasm and determination.
Searches for Hensley’s successor began with a meeting held on Feb. 23. Granville Superintendent Mark Dennison noted he would likely have an individual to present to the school board for approval by April. While Dennison released no name, he indicated the person would possess experience as an assistant coach while being familiar with both Granville and Whitehall programs.
Cory Becher made an immediate, impactful first season as their coach for the Blue Aces in 2022. When Hensley needed help as an assistant coach, Becher accepted, even without prior coaching experience. Today, he serves as co-offensive coordinator, special teams coordinator, defensive backs coach, and head jayvee coach on their coaching staff.
Becher believes that Hensley’s departure has created some holes in the coaching staff; however, these have since been filled by outstanding coaches. Furthermore, Becher notes that Blue Aces players possess remarkable talent.
Local athletes were honored with honorable mentions on the Ohio Prep Sportswriters Division III All-Ohio football team, such as River Valley running back Cayden Shidone, Granville quarterback Carsyn Crouch, and Hartley receiver Karson Lang on offense; Eastmoor Academy linebacker Diamonte Salley, Granville defensive end Cole Rhett and Watterson kicker Rudy Kessinger on defense;