Reynoldsburg out to avoid mistakes against unbeaten Pickerington North
The biggest moment in the Reynoldsburg High School football team's 21-7 victory over Gahanna on Sept. 28 might have come when defensive lineman Emmanuel Beal returned an interception 85 yards for a touchdown with 30 seconds left in the first half.
The Raiders are hoping they can avoid making that kind of mistake when they travel Friday, Oct. 5, to face another unbeaten team in Pickerington North.
North converted four turnovers into 21 points on the way to a 41-6 win over Reynoldsburg a year ago and had two interceptions during a 37-0 victory over Pickerington Central on Sept. 28.
North is 6-0 overall and 3-0 in the OCC-Ohio Division and the Raiders are 4-2 and 2-1.
"We felt a relief and excitement in beating Gahanna because it was a big game, a playoff type of game," Raiders senior Mykel Traylor-Bennett said. "Anybody can be beaten and if we come to play, come hungry and play well for all four quarters, we can beat (North). I think we'll be Pickerington North's biggest challenge. Last year we dropped a punt and had dropped passes against them. We have to play mistake-free football and execute."
Beal, who leads a defensive front that also includes Jeff Jones (DL) and Daquan Williams (LB), will be among the Raiders aiming to slow a North offense that averages 45 points.
Godwin Igwebuike leads North with 976 yards rushing and 15 touchdowns on 82 carries and Jake Butt is the top receiver with 25 catches for 314 yards and five scores.
Quarterback Mason Olszewski is 48-for-76 passing for 854 yards with nine touchdowns and two interceptions and has rushed for 377 yards and two touchdowns. Butt had eight catches for 88 yards and a touchdown against Pickerington Central.
That group is supported by an offensive line that has been getting healthier.
Senior Chris Huhn returned from left knee surgery after missing the first four games to see some action in North's 45-14 win over Lancaster on Sept. 21. He then was full-go at right tackle against Central.
"If we run the ball on the right side, we know we can rely on Grant Glackin because he's just really stepped up," Huhn said of the senior right guard. "We take every game seriously and when (the Reynoldsburg game) comes we'll be ready to step up. I remember they've got some defensive linemen who are just really quick off the ball and just really fast."
North held Pickerington Central to 196 total yards and became just the second team since the 2004 season to shut out the Tigers.
Dylan Weigel is the Panthers' leader with 36 solo and 43 assisted tackles and also has four tackles for losses. Geno Rollo leads North with 6.5 tackles for losses and Igwebuike leads in interceptions with four. Olszewski and Roland Ladipo both have three interceptions.
Tyree Tate and Traylor-Bennett have been the top receivers for Reynoldsburg, which features Jordan Aekins at quarterback and Kumar Collins at running back.
Aekins rushed for 112 yards and was 5-for-13 passing for 110 yards with two interceptions against Gahanna.
"The good news about breaking through against our rival the way we did is that we have another rival to play (this) week," North coach Tom Phillips said. "So if we don't get back up for this one, it'll be very disappointing.
"(Our players) will see the same thing we saw on film, that Reynoldsburg will be our biggest challenge thus far. (Raiders coach) Buddy White has done a great job with their program.
"They're big, physical and experienced on the line. Their guards and center are very impressive. We usually have an advantage in team speed against our opponents (but) that won't be the case against them. They have some great skilled players, especially Traylor-Bennett at receiver. He's 6-3 with speed and we'll be out there with our gnats trying to defend him."