GROVE CITY — While the Raiders got off to their best start in over 20 years going into a Week 4 matchup at Central Crossing on the night of September 14th, the team didn’t think very much of it with it being so early into the 2018 season. And after what ended up being their third running clock in a row expired at the Comets in another dominating victory when it was all said and done, the Raiders still feel like they have a lot to prove and are keeping the big picture in perspective.
With all of that being said, the Raiders still have a chance to do something that hasn’t been done in 50 years in front of what will be a packed Homecoming crowd tonight.
At Central Crossing, senior linebacker Ke’Shun Moorer recovered a fumble forced by Jay Amburgey just over a minute into the contest on the opening drive of the game by the Comets (2-2). That would lead to the first of three 1st-quarter touchdowns by the Raiders (4-0) to silence the Central Crossing crowd early, and six different Raiders would score touchdowns en route to a dominant 48-7 road victory.
Moorer would recover another fumble forced by Dez Cooper 26 yards for a touchdown with 4:01 left in the second quarter, and this was the first defensive score by the Raiders in 2018 to further extend its dominating start.
“Our defense from last year to this year has improved dramatically,” Moorer said of the team’s current defense despite last year’s improvement from 27.6 to 19.1 average points per game allowed from 2016 to 2017. “Everyone on our defense is straight athletes; everyone knows their job, everybody knows what they are doing, and we always have a lot of energy to come to the game with.”
“As of right now, we’re taking everything as it is, assessing it, and being humble. But we haven’t really won anything yet.”
At the very least, Reynoldsburg has won over AP voters in Ohio as of right now and rightfully so. They are now ranked #6 out of all Division I high school football teams in the state after outscoring its first four opponents by a combined score of 145-27 (+118), which is good for the second-best point differential of these Top 10 teams only behind arch-rival, division foe, and defending state champion Pickerington Central (#3, +137).
Not only has Reynoldsburg lit up the scoreboard in balanced fashion as an average of seven different Raiders have been directly responsible for points in the last three weeks; its dominating defense on top of its offensive outputs have helped Reynoldsburg blossom into a legitimate state title contender. As a matter of fact, Reynoldsburg’s 27 total points allowed is good for the least amount of points allowed by all ranked Division I teams in Ohio, including a present stretch of no points given up to opposing offenses in 11 of its last 12 quarters. The Raiders defense only allowed 148 total yards by Central Crossing, an average of 126.5 yards through four games in 2018 to compliment another strong output by the offense (483 total yards: 225 passing, 258 rushing), and a current average of just under 7 points allowed so far.
“I like how we’re playing football,” Raiders head coach Buddy White said. “The games aren’t as clean as I’d like for them to be; we’re still having turnovers and and too many penalties. But our style of play is good. I was worried, because when I looked at film [on Central Crossing], I was a little bit concerned. But when we play football like this, these are the kind of results we get against a team like that. I really like how we started the game; the defense was dominant and the offense moved the ball at will.”
“I’m happy for the kids and happy overall. They just knew they had to go to work and that is what they are doing.”
The only score allowed by Central Crossing came on 4th and 19 from the Raiders 28 halfway into the second quarter on a perfect throw into the right corner of the end zone in heavy traffic. This would cut the lead to 21-7 and get the Comets back into the game, and snap a nine-quarter streak of no points allowed by the Raiders defense dating back to Week 2.
But Reynoldsburg was not rattled by this and would bounce back quickly.
The Raiders would move the ball quickly on their next drive, and would score a minute and a half after what would be Central Crossing’s lone score on a 1-yard touchdown run by junior running back Courtland Bullard. 25 seconds later, the Raiders would find the end zone again when senior linebacker Dez Cooper forced a Comets fumble that led to the aforementioned 26-yard defensive touchdown by Moorer, and Reynoldsburg would lead 35-7 at the half.
In the third quarter, junior kicker Cocy Goff made a huge play on defense with an interception at midfield and a return to the Comets 28. This would lead to a 28-yard rushing touchdown on the next play by senior running back J’Vonte Edwards to give the Raiders a 42-7 lead with 5:10 left in the 3rd quarter and another running clock in favor of Reynoldsburg.
However, this was significant in a much bigger way than what can be measured on a scoreboard.
During Week 4 of the 2017 season: a 21-7 home win by Reynoldsburg against this same Central Crossing team, Edwards was injured in the second half and would miss the remainder of the season. He had focused a lot on his recovery to try and get back onto the field and have a big impact on the team in 2018. Edwards has definitely shown how much his hard work has paid off by being second on the team in total rushing yards, including leading all running backs with 56 yards and particularly that 28-yard touchdown run at Central Crossing in Week 4: his second rushing touchdown of the season (and his previous one was in the 4th quarter at Licking Heights in Week 2).
But given Edwards’ injury exactly one year prior against the same team he played in Week 4, this was a special moment for the Raiders and him personally, especially in what has been a loaded Reynoldsburg backfield that has seen four different running backs find the end zone multiple times in 2018.
“This game here was my revenge game,” Edwards would say of his Week 4 performance. “I came into the game with the mentality that I was going to get revenge on this team. I did whatever I could to help the team win; we went out here and played good on offense as well as defense tonight. If it wasn’t for my team, the coaching staff, and the whole program, I wouldn’t be where am here today. They pushed me through and they’ve been there every step of the way.”
This is one of many examples of the team chemistry that has also been an extremely big factor to Reynoldsburg’s early success in 2018, and lots of stars have emerged this season as a result of everyone knowing with and/or playing with each other for as many as 6-7 total years (varsity and prior). Junior wide receiver and kick returner James Dean would have a career game against Central Crossing, catching 6 passes from quarterback Michael Whatley for 113 yards including a 26-yard touchdown reception in the opening quarter, along with another 53-yard reception just short of the end zone earlier in the game to set up one of the Raiders seven total touchdowns on the night.
“It kind of hurt when I got so close and didn’t get into the end zone, but it felt pretty good actually doing it,” Dean would say of these plays in what was the best performance of his varsity career so far. “They gave me the ball and I tried to make plays for our team, and I think it went pretty well.”
According to past AP records compiled by Ohio playoff computer rankings guru Joe Eitel (joeeitel.com), Reynoldsburg now has a chance to go 5-0 for the first time since 1968 in front of what will be a packed Homecoming crowd tonight, and the Raiders will certainly go into this game against Westerville South (2-2) with the same humble mindset that has propelled it to such a dominating start and it’s first 4-0 start in 40 years.
“It’s pretty fun,” Edwards would go on to say about the team’s start this season. “We just have to stay focused, keep our heads on our shoulders, because we don’t want to go [into games] thinking that we already have the win. We go into the games and prepare with the mentality that we are not going to let up.”
But given another dominating performance with the halfway mark of the 2018 season rapidly approaching, it is safe to say that this Reynoldsburg Football team isn’t letting up any time soon.
KEY RAIDERS STATS (WEEK 4):
-Total Yards: 483 (225 pass, 258 rush)
-Total Yards Allowed: 148 (73 pass, 75 rush)
-Passing: Michael Whatley (9/14, 201 YDS, 1 TD)
-Rushing: J’Vonte Edwards (6 CAR, 56 YDS, 1 TD); Courtland Bullard (5 CAR, 47 YDS, 1 TD); Dez Cooper (1 CAR, 1 YDS, 1 TD); Guy Cowans-Wright (6 CAR, 36 YDS, 1 TD)
-Receiving: James Dean (6 REC, 113 YDS, 1 TD); Mershawn Rice (2 REC, 49 YDS)
-Defense: 3 sacks, 7 tackles for loss, 1 interception (Cocy Goff), 2 fumble recoveries (Ke’Shun Moorer)
-Special Teams: Cocy Goff (6/7 XP)
The Raiders (4-0) will looking to cap off play outside of the OCC-Ohio division undefeated against Westerville South (2-2) in the 2018 Homecoming Game. Westerville South is coming off a 37-29 Week 3 home loss against Upper Arlington.
Kickoff against the Wildcats is at 7:00pm on Friday 9/21/2018 at the Livingston Campus of Reynoldsburg High School, with ceremonies to take place prior to kickoff.
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