Buddy White knew when he became Reynoldsburg High School football coach in January exactly what stamp he wanted to put on the Raiders’ program.
“The first thing I told everybody was that we were going to be built on defense. The offense was going to score, but we were going to be known for defense,” White said. “We are going to play our best ballplayers on defense, and they’re going to make plays. That’s exactly what’s happening. It makes things a lot easier offensively when you know you have a defense behind you that cleans up your mistakes.”
Friday, Oct. 14 was a perfect example.
With 10 penalties hampering what otherwise might have been considered an outstanding offensive effort, the defense limited visiting Groveport to minus-12 rushing yards in the first half and less than 100 yards until their last possession in a 41-0 victory in OCC-Ohio Division play.
Six players scored touchdowns, including running back Kumar Collins on the game’s opening drive after he sat out an Oct. 7 victory at Lancaster with turf toe. He had eight of his 17 carries on the drive, which he capped with a 1-yard score. Collins finished with 63 of Reynoldsburg’s 123 rushing yards.
The Raiders improved to 6-2 overall and 4-1 OCC-Ohio, securing their first winning season since going 6-4 in 2005. The Cruisers fell to 3-5 and 1-4.
But the story was the defense, which didn’t let Groveport across midfield until the closing minutes of the first half. They forced two interceptions, both by Chris Lee, and a fumble from Cruisers quarterback Shane Denny. Denny left for a short time in the second quarter with an ankle injury.
Lee returned the second interception 40 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter.
“We know their quarterback is good and we’d heard their running backs saying they’d get 200 yards on us,” Reynoldsburg defensive tackle LaVonne Gauthney said. “But we executed well, and we were always in our spots. We just have a good defensive line and linebackers who fill their holes. The linemen like to be physical up front. We’re tough with everything we do.”
Mykel Traylor-Bennett scored from 4 yards in the first quarter, and Dreshaun Thomas, Dionta Brown and De’Von Bollinger later added touchdown runs of 5, 4 and 18 yards, respectively, to expand a 20-0 halftime lead. Traylor-Bennett set up his score with a 53-yard punt return.
“(The Lancaster game without Collins) added depth, and it gave us confidence in some guys we really never had confidence in before,” White said. “I was really happy with the way everybody played. I was a little upset at halftime because the game had gotten so sloppy offensively but in the second half, the defense came out and set the tone. Were they lights out or what?”
They’ll have to be the next two weeks in games against Gahanna and Pickerington Central as the Raiders chase their first Division I playoff berth since 2001.
“We still have our critics,” Collins said. “We’re getting closer to the playoffs. Next week is huge if we want to get there (the postseason). But we’re getting some love, too, around school. It feels pretty good.”
Groveport 0 0 0 0 -- 0
Reynoldsburg 13 7 14 7 -- 41
R--Collins 1 run (Hedrick kick)
R--Traylor-Bennett 4 run (run failed)
R--Thomas 5 run (Hedrick kick)
R--Lee 40 INT return (Hedrick kick)
R--Brown 4 run (Hedrick kick)
R--Bollinger 18 run (McKean kick)