Almost two months removed from the one-point loss that contributed to his team's failure to advance to the postseason for the 11th consecutive season, coach Buddy White feels confident about his take on the Reynoldsburg High School football program.
If pressed into the same situation next season, he believes the Raiders will respond differently when they have an opportunity to beat one of their biggest rivals.
After winning three of its first four games, Reynoldsburg led Pickerington Central by 13 points heading into the fourth quarter but ended up losing 21-20 in a game that began Sept. 21 and was completed the next morning because of a weather delay.
With that loss, combined with losses to Findlay (61-14 on Aug. 31) and Pickerington North (49-27 on Oct. 5), the Raiders improved by one victory from a year ago but settled for 10th in the Division I, Region 3 computer ratings as the top eight made the playoffs.
Next year, White expects his team to win the type of game it lost to Pickerington Central.
"What killed it for us was losing to Pickerington Central," said White, who is 13-7 in two seasons. "That was a game we had control of until the last three minutes. There's a totally different culture with these kids that are coming up through the program. We're not going to have trouble getting guys in the weight room. They're going to do things the exact way that we want them to do it. We're extremely excited about the future. We're losing (30 seniors), but we're not going to lose that Pickerington Central game if we're more disciplined like we'll be next year."
Reynoldsburg went 7-3 overall and finished third (5-2) in the OCC-Ohio Division, behind co-champions Pickerington Central and Pickerington North (6-1) and ahead of Gahanna and Grove City (4-3), Lancaster (2-5), Newark (1-6) and Groveport (0-7).
"Honestly, I just feel like we fell short," senior wide receiver and defensive back Mykel Traylor-Bennett said. "We had a way better team than we had last year and I think this year we had our best chance to come through and make the playoffs. It's something that's going to bring the program down or it's going to bring them together."
Traylor-Bennett, who has verbally committed to Cincinnati, was the leading receiver with 20 catches for 355 yards and four touchdowns and also had an interception, three tackles for losses and 46 total tackles.
He made second-team all-district with senior Emmanuel Beal, who missed two games and parts of two others but still had 23 tackles for losses and 14 sacks. He also had a defensive touchdown.
Senior two-way lineman Jeff Jones had 11 tackles for losses and five sacks and made special mention all-district. Senior Josh Edwards and junior Solomon Grace were honorable mention all-district as defensive linemen.
The biggest losses offensively will be Traylor-Bennett and Kumar Collins, who rushed for a team-best 777 yards and nine touchdowns on 152 carries and was honorable mention all-district. He missed two games with injuries.
Senior running backs A.J. Mitchell (373 yards, 3 touchdowns) and Dionta Brown (330 yards, 3 touchdowns) and wide receiver Tyree Tate (12 catches for 142 yards, 1 touchdown) also contributed.
Junior Jordan Aekins completed his second season as the starting quarterback and was 47-for-103 passing for 768 yards with eight touchdowns and four interceptions. He also rushed for 368 yards and four touchdowns on 39 carries.
Junior wide receiver Demetris Givens had six catches for 82 yards.
Junior Tyrek Pugh started at strong safety and saw action at fullback, junior Jake Grant started for the second consecutive season at offensive tackle and junior Anthony Hines started at center.
Junior Cory Beal, who is Emmanuel's brother, had nine tackles for losses and six sacks on the defensive line. Junior Montrael Green gained experience at linebacker.
Emmanuel Beal, Edwards, Grace and Jones made first-team all-league. Aekins, Hines, Pugh and Traylor-Bennett were second-team all-league, Collins was special mention and senior Nigel Easley (RB/DB) was honorable mention.
White was one of the league's coaches of the year along with Pickerington North's Tom Phillips.
"This year helps us to realize what our potential is," Aekins said.