GROVE CITY, OH – In Week 7, the Raiders offense was held to season lows of 196 total yards and 7 points at Gahanna-Lincoln in what was their first loss of the 2018 season. On the night of Friday October 12th, 2018, Reynoldsburg quickly had to move on from this as they had another matchup in the OCC-Ohio on what ended up being a rainy, cold, and packed Homecoming night at Grove City.
But with the big picture in mind and their chances at a playoff berth in sight, Reynoldsburg took care of business.
The Raiders (7-1, 2-1) racked up 255 rushing yards on offense alone, and starting quarterback Michael Whatley bounced back by completing 67% of his passes with a touchdown a week after being pulled in the second half. Reynoldsburg’s defense had another big night by not allowing a single point for the first time since Week 5 and holding the Greyhounds to 112 total yards of offense (77 rush, 35 pass). The Raiders offense would most notably go a staggering 13-for-16 (81.3%) on third down a week after going 2-for-15 (13.3%), and senior running back Guy Cowans-Wright scored two of the Raiders’ four rushing touchdowns of the night on the way to a 43-7 victory at Grove City.
“About darn time,” Raiders head coach Buddy White said after the game of his team’s success on third down. “It is something that we put a focus on, and the kids responded. I really liked our running game tonight; the kids really got after it, which is what we really wanted to happen.”
Even despite Grove City winning the time of possession battle by a margin of 25:18 to 22:30, the Raiders made the most out of the time they had the ball. Another dominant performance by the Raiders defense combined with the offense taking advantage of good field position for the majority of the night was just what the doctor ordered to give Reynoldsburg big momentum going into what will be a huge Senior Night game in the Burg with so much at stake.
Raiders 7, Greyhounds 0
Grove City received the opening kickoff at their own 23 and took the opening play of the game 18 yards on the ground for a first down. Four plays later, senior linebacker Dez Cooper sacked the Greyhounds quarterback for a 9-yard loss to force a punt not even two minutes into the game. On the Raiders’ first drive, Whatley and the offense marched down the field, going 4-for-4 on third down on the way to a 9-yard rushing touchdown by senior running back Guy Cowans-Wright plus the extra point to put the Burg up 7-0 with 4:23 left in the period.
The Greyhounds would again open their next drive with a first down, but would punt four plays later to give Reynoldsburg the ball back at their own 40. Cowans-Wright would eventually run for 23 yards on 3rd and 1 to advance to Grove City’s 28 to cap off an opening quarter where Reynoldsburg would go 5-for-5 on third down and lead 7-0 as the period came to a close at Grove City.
Raiders 28, Greyhounds 7
The Raiders would cash in immediately to begin the second quarter, as senior running back J’Vonte Edwards would burst through Grove City’s defense for a 19-yard run and a 4-run touchdown run on back-to-back plays to put the Burg up 14-0 with 11:02 left in the period after junior kicker and running back Cocy Goff’s second extra point of the night. The Greyhounds would take over on third own 20 and convert a third and long with a couple of hand offs and a 12-yard run around the Raiders defense, but would still be denied their first trip into Reynoldsburg territory as they would ultimately punt from their own 45 with 7:10 left in the half.
But the Greyhounds would eventually get on the board.
Reynoldsburg would fumble at their own 32, while Grove City would recover it and run the ball all the way to the end zone for a touchdown with 6:51 left in the half to cut the Raiders’ lead to 14-7.
The Raiders would quickly respond as they started on their own 45 after a short punt. Whatley would shake off a few defenders in the pocket and run for 14 yards into Greyhounds territory, and then throw a strike to junior wide receiver Shon Strickland who caught what was a 32-yard touchdown pass over a Greyhounds defender that drew pass interference on the play. That would put the Raiders up 21-7 with 4:28 left in the half, and be the key play of a performance for Strickland to lead all receivers with 69 receiving yards and the aforementioned touchdown reception in another strong performance of what has been a big season for the junior.
“I didn’t score last week and had opportunities,” Strickland said after the game. “So it felt great getting back into the end zone.”
Strickland had credited his coaches and teammates for his continued success in a season where his particular role has been the biggest yet. He also talked about the team’s overall bond that has been a huge intangible factor to Reynoldsburg’s success in 2018, and how they go above and beyond the ensure the best results possible and continued success. Strickland and his fellow receivers get on the field whenever possible in order to continue to improve and maintain this amazing chemistry with each other, and particularly with Whatley who had a bounce-back performance in Week 8.
“He led the team and was our field general,” White said of Whatley’s outing. “He was pretty accurate on his passes which is always a good thing.”
Whatley would continue to make big plays with the first half coming to a close. After Grove City went three and out on their ensuing drive not even a minute after Strickland’s touchdown, a short punt was returned to the Greyhounds 37 by senior receiver Princeton Hoskins. Whatley would complete passes of 12 yards to junior receiver Andree’ Mock on the first play of Reynoldsburg’s next drive, and add two mores throws of 14 and 15 yards to Strickland to bring up first and goal from the Greyhounds 6 two minutes into the drive.
Cooper would eventually add another rushing touchdown on the offensive side of the ball, punching it into the end zone from one yard out on 3rd and goal to cap off a successful first half in terms of big third-down conversions and putting the Raiders up 28-7 with 1:00 left in the half and at the break.
Raiders 28, Greyhounds 7
The Raiders would receive the second half kickoff and convert yet another third down on a rush by Goff, but Whatley would get sacked and fumble in Reynoldsburg territory with 9:26 left in the period. Grove City would recover the fumble at the Raiders 40, and begin another drive with a big play of 13 yards plus a penalty on Reynoldsburg to advance to the Raiders 22 just over a minute after the fumble recovery. They would make it as far down as the Raiders 17, but senior defensive lineman Jay Amburgey would force a fumble that would result in an 8-yard loss for Grove City. With the Raiders defense gaining back the momentum, Grove City would have a bad snap, fumble again, but this time cough up the ball to the Burg to give the Raiders the ball back at their own 23 with 5:48 left in the period.
Whatley and the Raiders would march down the field, completing a pass to Hoskins for 7 yards and setting up Goff to eventually rush for 17 yards on 3rd and short to get back into Greyhounds territory with 3:01 left in the quarter. They would advance to Greyhounds 19 after a personal foul penalty on Grove City, but a fourth-down pass attempt by Whatley fell incomplete in the corner of the end zone as rain continued to fall and the Raiders would come up empty despite a promising drive.
Grove City would take over at their own 15 yard line and would face a 3rd and 6 from their own 24 as the third quarter came to a close with no further points by either team, but the visitors still up 28-7.
Raiders 43, Greyhounds 7
Despite a promising drive for Reynoldsburg resulting in no points, Grove City would give the ball right back to the Raiders.
On the first play of the final period, senior defensive back Evan Jenkins came up with a big interception at the Greyhounds 27 to give Reynoldsburg the ball back deep in Grove City territory. The Raiders would run for three straight plays and cash in, as Goff would run for 9 yards, Edwards would run for 20 yards, and Cowans-Wright would run for a 1-yard touchdown and his second score of the night with 10:07 to go. A fake extra point attempt resulted in a successful two-point conversion run by junior receiver James Dean to put the Raiders up 36-7.
Grove City would start their next drive on their own 20 and advance to the Raiders 49, but a 4th down pass attempt with 8:08 to go was broken up to give Reynoldsburg the ball back. Sophomore running back Kehinde McComb would eventually convert a 4th and 4 for a Raiders first down with 4:30 to go, and a personal foul on Grove City would advance the ball to the Greyhounds 15. Freshman quarterback Dijon Jennings, who played virtually the entire second half in the loss at Gahanna-Lincoln the previous week, would extend the lead to 43-7 on a 10-yard quarterback run with 3:07 to go, and the score would stay this way as the Raiders secured their first running clock since Week 4 at Central Crossing and eventually emerge with a big victory.
DIVISION OUTLOOK AND PLAYOFF PICTURE:
While the Raiders cruised to a 43-7 win at Grove City, a lot happened around Central Ohio in what ended up being a crazy Week 8.
Reynoldsburg (7-1, 2-1) still controls their own destiny for at least a share of the OCC-Ohio division title after beating Grove City (0-8, 0-3). Lancaster (5-3, 3-0) won their fifth straight game after an 0-3 start with a 31-14 win against Gahanna-Lincoln (4-4, 1-2). Pickerington Central (7-1, 2-1) won the battle of Pickerington with a 16-7 win over Pickerington North (5-3, 1-2). Therefore, at 2-1 in the division, the Raiders are only one game behind current division leader Lancaster (who will play the Burg in the final week of the regular season), and are in a tie for second place in the division with arch-rival Pickerington Central, who the Raiders will play next on Senior Night. Simply put, if the Raiders win their final two games of the regular season against Pickerington Central and at Lancaster, they will clinch at least a share of the OCC-Ohio division title and their first crown since 1993.
But the Raiders were definitely winners in terms of the playoff picture in Division I Region 2.
Per Joe Eitel’s unofficial computer rankings as of 10/12/2018, Reynoldsburg rose back to the #1 spot after Dublin Coffman (7-1) lost 24-7 at home against Hilliard Davidson in Week 8, and the Raiders control their destiny for their third playoff berth in school history and first since 2015. The Shamrocks fell to #2 after what ended up being their first loss of the season.
Gahanna-Lincoln remained at #3 despite their loss at Lancaster, and Olentangy Liberty rose to #4 after their 21-14 win against Olentangy. Westerville Central fell to #5 after a 14-10 loss to Olentangy Orange, who rose to #8 and would have the last playoff spot if the season ended today. Toledo Whitmer and Delaware Hayes both won to each improve to 6-2 and take the #6 and #7 spots, respectively.
Below are the unofficial rankings of teams in Reynoldsburg’s playoff region, along with the teams’ corresponding records and computer averages compiled by Joe Eitel, and their change in ranking from the previous week.
The Top 8 teams after the regular season (Week 10) will qualify for the playoffs, and the Top 4 teams would open up the playoffs on their home field.
1. Reynoldsburg (7-1, 22.2375)* (+1)
2. Dublin Coffman (7-1, 21.1125) (-1)
3. Gahanna-Lincoln (4-4, 15.5375)* (0)
4. Olentangy Liberty (5-3, 14.8375) (+1)
5. Westerville Central (4-4, 12.5000) (-1)
6. Toledo Whitmer (6-2, 12.2156) (+1)
7. Delaware Hayes (6-2, 11.9625) (-1)
8. Olentangy Orange (5-3, 11.1250) (+1)
9. Toledo Start (4-4, 10.7500- first team out)
10. Upper Arlington (4-4, 10.4875- second team out)
Should the Raiders qualify for the playoffs in 2018, they would play their postseason opener on the night of Friday November 2nd, 2018. If the season ended today, 1st-seeded Reynoldsburg would open the playoffs at home against 8th-seeded Olentangy Orange.
*Gahanna-Lincoln and Reynoldsburg are the only two OCC-Ohio division members in this playoff region. All others are in Division I Region 3.
AP POLL (10/15/2018):
Reynoldsburg barely fell out of the Top 10 (to #11) amongst Ohio’s Division I teams in the AP poll after their loss to Gahanna-Lincoln in Week 7, but their bounce back win over Grove City was not enough to get them back in given all of the other results around Ohio in what was a crazy Week 8. The Raiders remained at #11 in the AP Poll likely given the other results and particularly upsets around the state.
Cincinnati Moeller and Canton McKinley both improved to 8-0 and are ranked #1 and #2 in the state, respectively, while Raiders’ arch-rival Pickerington Central checked in at #3. Hilliard Davidson handed Dublin Coffman their first loss of the season, plus St. Ignatius and Solon handed Cincinnati Moeller and Mentor losses respectively in Week 8. All three of these aforementioned winners were also ranked outside of the Top 10 just like Reynoldsburg; Hillard Davidson and Solon jumped to #7 and #8 respectively after their upset victories, while Dublin Coffman dropped down to #10 as a result of their first loss. Mentor only dropped to #4 as a result of their first loss of the season given their strength of schedule, while Euclid checked in at #5 and Clayton Northmont of Division I Region 3 entered the Top 10 at #6. St. Edward checked in at #9 to round out the Top 10.
BATTLE OF 256: 2018 edition. The Raiders (7-1, 2-1) will play arch-rival Pickerington Central (7-1, 2-1) on Senior Night with a lot on the line. Their 14-2 combined season record is the best winning percentage between the Raiders and Tigers entering a Battle of 256 matchup this millennium, and this is a critical game for particularly Reynoldsburg’s OCC-Ohio division title hopes as they control their destiny in this regard. Most importantly, a Raiders win would not only cap off a second-straight undefeated regular season home stand, but would more than likely lock up Reynoldsburg’s third playoff berth in school history even with one regular season game remaining.
Kickoff against Pickerington Central is at 7:00pm on Friday 10/19/2018 at the Livingston Campus of Reynoldsburg High School, with Senior Night ceremonies to take place much earlier.
BUY TICKETS ONLINE:
In anticipation of what will be a highly-attended rivalry contest and with Senior Night ceremonies taking place well before kickoff, you can buy your tickets to the Pickerington Central game online to avoid what will likely be very long ticket lines! Don’t miss any of the action and use this link below to buy your ticket:
Follow @ReynoldsburgFB on Twitter for play-by-play updates during game days and all things related to Reynoldsburg Raiders Football.