Reynoldsburg, White not shy with playoff aspirations
One surefire way to end a conversation with most high school football coaches during the season's first three weeks is to bring up the subject of making the playoffs.
The response usually is going to be something along the lines of it being way too early to even think about anything but next week's game.
One area coach explained that talk of the postseason at this point is "exactly what messes with kids' heads."
Typical talk from coaches this time of year tends to focus on how their respective league races will be shaped beginning in week four.
Then again, Reynoldsburg coach Buddy White isn't typical.
Among his first words after the Raiders defeated New Albany 10-9 in their opener Aug. 24 was the reminder that this season is "playoffs or bust."
Even an 8-2 season is something White would deem a disappointment if Reynoldsburg came up short of the playoffs, despite the feel-good story that overall record would create.
The Raiders don't exactly have an esteemed football history.
In the 40-year history of the state playoffs, Reynoldsburg's only appearance came in 2001, when it beat Worthington Kilbourne 24-20 then lost to Dublin Coffman 28-14 in a Division I regional semifinal.
To put in perspective how long ago that was, then-Raiders coach Tony Pusateri is now Coffman's athletics director. The Shamrocks' quarterback was future Notre Dame standout and NFL player Brady Quinn.
The Raiders went 27-63 over the next nine years with their only winning season coming in 2005, when they went 6-4 and finished 14th in the Division I, Region 3 computer ratings. The top eight make the playoffs.
But a sign that better times might be on the horizon came last fall, in White's first season, when Reynoldsburg won six of its first eight games.
That the Raiders lost their last two by a combined 75-14 to settle for a 6-4 record and 15th in the region hardly dulled their enthusiasm heading into this season.
Reynoldsburg has a Division I recruit at wide receiver in Mykel Traylor-Bennett, a running back in Kumar Collins who rushed for more than 1,000 yards last year and a defensive lineman in Emmanuel Beal who had 18 sacks a year ago.
But talking postseason already?
There, of course, is a long way to go.
Last season, Pickerington North won its first four games, including over Watterson in week one. Because of Watterson's history of success, that, in most seasons, assures a team a pile of playoff points. But the Eagles ended up just 3-7.
The Panthers lost only two games, but just enough things went wrong that they were one of only three Division I programs in Ohio to go 8-2 and not make the postseason. Avon Lake and North Ridgeville were the others.
This season, there seems to be a sense that three of Reynoldsburg's OCC-Ohio Division rivals, Pickerington Central, Pickerington North and Gahanna, each believes it has the pieces to make the playoffs.
Is it even mathematically possible for four teams from the same league to come up with enough computer points to be among the top eight in Region 3?
Reynoldsburg plans to find out.
Whether or not White is putting too much emphasis on the bottom line remains up for debate.
No one would deny that making the postseason is on every team's list of goals, and White is in a situation where he's trying to teach student-athletes accustomed to losing what it takes to win at the highest level.
Unconventional or not, White's method of teaching is at its worst courageous and at its best refreshing.
Jarrod Ulrey is a ThisWeek sportswriter. Follow his blog, "On the Recruiting Trail," for the latest in central Ohio high school recruiting news.