A defensive adjustment helped the Reynoldsburg High School boys soccer team find its way during the final two weeks of the regular season.
The Raiders, who lost seven of their first nine but are 3-2-2 over their last seven games, are playing Xander Sohalski, Jaron Radabaugh and Nahom Abayneh at defender.
Before closing the regular season with a 5-1 loss to St. Charles on Oct. 13, Reynoldsburg allowed just four goals over its previous six games, including playing Watkins Memorial to a scoreless tie Oct. 11.
The Raiders open the Division I district tournament Saturday, Oct. 20, at Marysville. The winner plays seventh-seeded Westerville North, Watkins Memorial or Mount Vernon in a district semifinal Wednesday, Oct. 24.
"Going with three guys in the back wasn't the long-term plan," coach Justin Lewis said. "Most teams don't use that formation. We've been working like crazy, especially in the back against defensive midfielders. We've got a lot more confidence back there."
Senior Matt Takacs sustained a concussion midseason and has been playing midfielder instead of defender since his return.
The Raiders won their first district championship since 1985 a year ago and were seeded 24th for this year's tournament. Marysville, which is seeded 15th, went 6-0-1 over its final seven regular-season games and is 8-4-4 heading into the postseason.
During the Raiders' rough start, they lost back-to-back league games in which they held leads against Gahanna (3-2 on Sept. 11) and Pickerington North (2-1 on Sept. 18).
Reynoldsburg followed by tying Lancaster at 2 on Sept. 25 and then posted consecutive wins over Newark (3-0 on Oct. 2), Westerville South (2-0 on Oct. 4) and Jonathan Alder (3-1 on Oct. 6).
The Raiders' 2-1 loss to Groveport on Oct. 9 gave them a final league record of 1-5-1. Gahanna went 7-0 and won its ninth consecutive league title. Pickerington Central finished 4-1-2, Grove City went 3-3-1, Groveport went 2-5 and Newark finished 0-7. Lancaster was 3-1-2 and Pickerington North was 4-2 before the Golden Gales played the Panthers on Oct. 15.
"I think we just came together," Sohalski said. "A bunch of guys took it to heart and came out hard. We've done what we had to do."