Courtland Bullard called it "making magic happen."

Clinging to a three-point lead and with the ball at its own 35-yard line, the Reynoldsburg High School football team needed its running game to ice the game against Pickerington North on Sept. 28 in its OCC-Ohio Division opener.

What transpired was a nine-play, 65-yard drive capped by a 1-yard touchdown run by Guy Cowans-Wright with 1 minute, 24 seconds left to help the Raiders hang on for what would be a 33-31 victory.

Going forward, it was the kind of possession that Reynoldsburg will need to sustain more regularly as it looks to build on its first 6-0 start since 1961.

The Raiders continue league play Friday, Oct. 5, at Gahanna.

"We talked to our offensive line and got some things hashed out," said Bullard, a running back and defensive back. "They started blocking a little better and things started opening up for us. We've still got to put a lot of hard work in and stay focused (so we can) stay on top.

"(Our record) means a lot. We've put in a lot of hard work. All the people that doubted us, we did what we had to do."

Even with senior linebacker and Ohio University commit Ben Johnson out with an injury, North's defensive front led by linemen Jack Sawyer and Dante Reed held the Raiders to 109 yards rushing on 28 carries through the game's first 43 minutes.

Gahanna's biggest strength is its linebacker corps led by seniors David Williams, Zajdi Hoxha and Sam Young.

Pickerington Central uses a similar committee approach to Reynoldsburg with its running game, and the Lions limited the Tigers to 179 yards on 42 carries for a 4.3 average in Central's 27-13 victory Sept. 27.

In three of Reynoldsburg's first four games, quarterback Michael Whatley threw for more than 200 yards.

Whatley is a drop-back quarterback who has completed 64 of 114 passes for 966 yards with nine touchdowns and six interceptions. Against North, he threw for 110 yards, including a 42-yard touchdown to Camby Goff late in the first quarter.

Bullard, though, had what might have been the game's biggest play when he ran for 47 yards on third-and-5 from the Panthers 49 with 2:31 remaining.

That set up Guy Cowans-Wright's 1-yard plunge two plays later that represented Reynoldsburg's final touchdown.

North scored on a 68-yard hook-and-lateral on the next play from scrimmage, but the Raiders recovered the onside kick and ran out the clock.

Each of the plays on Reynoldsburg's final scoring drive were runs, including an 11-yard gain by J'Vonte Edwards on second-and-16 from the Reynoldsburg 40 that was followed by Bullard's long run on the next play.

Bullard finished with a season-high 70 yards and one touchdown on six carries. On the season, he has 246 yards rushing and four touchdowns on 32 carries.

Edwards led the Raiders with 102 yards rushing in a 28-0 win over Westerville South on Sept. 21 and has 315 yards and two touchdowns on 47 carries on the season, while Cowans-Wright has 235 yards and five touchdowns on 52 carries on the season.

Another who has contributed to the ground attack is MarcAnthony Gray, who had four carries for 23 yards and a touchdown against North and has 115 yards rushing on the season.

The Raiders also got an interception return for a touchdown and a long punt return to set up another score against North. In addition, they got three extra points from Camby Goff at kicker as he filled in for his brother, Cocy Goff, who was serving a one-game suspension for a targeting call in the victory over South.

Still, the success Reynoldsburg had with its running game late against North could be the biggest positive for the Raiders moving forward against an OCC-Ohio slate known for its run defense.

"(North was) manning us up and everything, and they were giving us the run and that's when we started taking it," coach Buddy White said. "Courtland Bullard, if we gave him the ball 20 times a game, he'd average 200 yards, there's no doubt in my mind. He's that special. But it wasn't just him. Our offense, defense and special teams did well. This was a total team effort.

"(The win over North is) incredibly big. This is only the second time in school history that we've beaten Pickerington North, but the resiliency of this team came through. I'm very proud of these guys."

julrey@thisweeknews.com

@UlreyThisWeek