Raymell Byrd and Rasheed Muhammad have developed into a one-two punch for the Whitehall-Yearling High School football team, giving it a solid offensive tandem to build around as it continues MSL-Ohio Division play.
The juniors are key components of a team looking to make a run in the second half of the season.
The Rams are 2-3 overall and 0-1 in the MSL-Ohio as they prepare to play host to Grandview on Friday, Sept. 29. The Bobcats are 3-2 overall and 1-0 in the league.
Byrd, the team's quarterback, and Muhammad, the starting tailback, lead an offense that has put up impressive numbers this season. They combined for 362 total yards as the Rams dominated the statistics but lost their league opener at Columbus Academy 31-14 on Sept. 22.
"Raymell is taking his reads and he's giving it to Rasheed or he's pulling it," coach Rod Lightfoot said. "It's a good combination back there. Both those guys play a critical part trying to make our offense go. They continue to do what we're asking them to do."
The Rams hurt themselves against Academy, committing four costly turnovers and losing the ball twice on downs in Vikings territory in the second half.
For the season, Byrd has completed 31 of 75 passes for 537 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions and rushed for 688 yards and nine touchdowns on 99 carries. Muhammad has rushed for 421 yards and five touchdowns on 76 carries.
"They're fantastic kids," Lightfoot said. "They're leaders on and off the field. They're leaders in the classroom. They're kids that really buy into what we're trying to establish as far as work ethic. They're good students. They're all-around great kids."
Byrd saw limited time at quarterback the previous two seasons, playing behind 2017 graduate DeShante Vaughn. Byrd was a contributor at wide receiver and free safety in his first two seasons, and again is seeing time at free safety.
"That helped me get ready," Byrd said of playing behind Vaughn. "It helped show me how fast the game goes and helped me on decision-making and knowing what I had to get better at."
Muhammad is the younger brother of Siraj Muhammad, who was a standout tailback for the Rams. A 2017 graduate, Siraj is playing on the junior varsity team at Alderson Broaddus University in Philippi, West Virginia.
Siraj helped Whitehall reach the Division III, Region 11 playoffs last season, its first postseason berth since 2003. Although the Rams lost to Bexley 31-21 in the first round to finish 8-3, Siraj rushed for 1,422 yards and 21 touchdowns and was named first-team all-district and all-league and second-team all-state.
Rasheed credits Siraj for his development.
"We're very close," Rasheed said. "He's taught me a lot of things. We're both very smart football players. That's what we excel at, mentally, when it comes to football. He's a great athlete. We're always going at it, which makes you better."
Muhammad also is a starter at safety, earning the respect of Lightfoot for his durability on both sides of the ball.
"Rasheed is our tailback and then he goes back and plays safety and he never comes off the field," Lightfoot said. "He's a critical component to what we're doing team-wise. He's a true warrior out there on the field. Raymell is special, but Rasheed leaves it on the field every Friday night. Those two play off each other."
Both athletes also compete on the track and field team in the spring, with Byrd specializing in the high jump and Muhammad specializing in the long jump.
They have been teammates since attending Rosemore Middle School.
"We're pretty close away from the field," Muhammad said. "A lot of us are pretty close away from the field. We all have that bond out of school, too."