Reynoldsburg High School football player Solomon Grace knows what he experienced during his freshman year, when he served as a backup defensive lineman and part-timer on special teams for Division IV state champion Hartley, was special.
While he hasn't experienced winning to that extent since, the knowledge he gained that fall was part of a process that has molded him into a team leader for the Raiders.
Grace, who transferred back to his home school district as a sophomore after spending one year at Hartley, has been part of a culture with the Raiders the last three seasons that has emphasized discipline and a hard-nosed work ethic under coach Buddy White.
White was the freshman coach at Hartley in 2010 and also came to Reynoldsburg a year later. The Raiders have gone 16-11 since he took over.
"I started on special teams a couple games and played some on the defensive line (at Hartley as a freshman)," Grace said. "It was great. I don't know if I could cherish the moment as a freshman, but it was a really special moment.
"I was in Reynoldsburg my whole life and just went to Hartley my freshman year. (White) was a (factor in) why I came back, and also because of the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) school. I plan on majoring (in college) in engineering or mathematics and becoming a math teacher."
Led by Grace's performance Oct. 11, the Raiders held a vaunted Pickerington North offense in check during a 20-3 loss that dropped their record to 3-4 overall and 1-3 in the OCC-Ohio Division. North is 7-0 overall and 4-0 in the league and averages 39.4 points. The 6-foot, 225-pound Grace starts at middle linebacker and had nine tackles against the Panthers.
Grace, who has a 3.47 GPA and said he has been receiving interest from the Naval Academy as well as a few Mid-American Conference schools, believes his team's defense is on the right track despite the Raiders' three-game losing streak.
Reynoldsburg plays host Friday, Oct. 18, to Lancaster, which beat Gahanna 22-19 on Oct. 11 to improve to 4-3 overall and 2-2 in the league.
"I think we're coming together as a defense and steadily improving each week," Grace said. "Part of my job is just making sure the team is mentally and physically ready to go and making sure everybody is listening and respectful."
Grace, whose father, Terry Grace, played for Linden-McKinley in the 1970s and whose brother, 2011 graduate Talion Grace, also played for the Raiders, is "a very good kid" according to White.
"I was the head freshman coach (at Hartley) when he was a freshman," White said. "He's just physically and naturally matured into a fine young man. He's always been a very good football player. We expect him to lead our defense and make plays, and those are things he does."