The Reynoldsburg High School football team was known for its stout defense last season.

The Reynoldsburg High School football team was known for its stout defense last season.

Of the 28 teams in Region 3, the Raiders were one of three teams that did not allow more than 30 points in at least one game.

The team that came the closest reaching 30 on the Raiders was Dublin Jerome, which defeated Reynoldsburg 28-0 in last year's opener. The two again will meet in the opener Friday at Jerome.

The Raiders, who were 2-8 last year, return several key players on defense. Chief among them is end Roosevelt Nix, who had 85 tackles, including 34 for loss. The Raiders have placed a premium on getting Nix some help in their 4-3 defense and hope returning linebackers Patrick Gundelfinger and Manny Webb will be the answer.

Nix will see his fair share of double-team blocks, but it won't be anything out of the ordinary for Jerome, which finished 6-5 last year and made the program's first playoff appearance.

"There's no doubt we're going to have to know where (Nix) is when we line up," said Jerome coach Mark Hundley, whose team lost seven of 10 players who were all-OCC-Cardinal Division picks. "In the past they've been able to move him around a little bit and we will have to account for him for sure. Our system is based on a lot of double-teaming so he'll get double-teamed like anyone else would."

Jerome will attack using a hybrid offense that will feature both power running and spread formations. In the preseason, the Celtics also have been lining up in pistol formations -- a shallow shotgun.

"We always look at doing whatever the defense will give us," Hundley said. "If we have to go to our jumbo package and run the ball, we'll do that."

Such was the case last season as the Raiders' defense proved effective against the spread formations that Jerome used to begin the game.

When the second quarter started, the Celtics reverted to tight formations and power runs, eventually leading to three rushing touchdowns.

Steve Mehrer had two of those touchdowns and the 6-foot, 215-pound running back/safety has returned. Last year he led the Celtics in rushing (780 yards on 137 carries), scored 11 touchdowns and was first-team all-league.

Jerome's other skill-position players didn't play much last year, including quarterback Ryan Gannon, who missed all but three games with a broken collarbone.

The Celtics will rely on an experienced offensive line that is led by tackles Josh Vradenburg (6-1, 220) and Trevor Mendelson (6-5, 275). Vradenburg was second-team all-league. They will draw the primary assignment of blocking Nix.

Gannon and receivers Cameron Wilson and A.J. Lowe will face a Reynoldsburg secondary led by Bowling Green-recruit Devon McKoy and Brandon Mitchell, both of whom are returning starters. Wilson also will play running back at times.

Reynoldsburg had little success running the option last season against Jerome. The Raiders have moved to the I-formation with McKoy and Mitchell at tailback. Gundelfinger and Dominique Walker, who will also start at linebacker, will play fullback. Reynoldsburg made the switch to become more aggressive attacking the line of scrimmage.

The Raiders' offensive line returns four starters for either J.C. Gibson or Richie Wellman at quarterback. Gibson was the starter for most of last season and Wellman, who was injured during the preseason last year, played junior varsity when he returned.

Scioto's 3-4 defense will have Mehrer at safety and Jack Beebe (6-2, 210) at nose guard against Nix, who will start at guard.

"Their linebacking crew is very athletic and they have a couple safeties that are fast and play run support first," Reynoldsburg coach Steve Evans said.