With an opportunity to earn a share of its first league championship since 1993 on the line, the Reynoldsburg High School football team made several big plays during the second half of its OCC-Ohio Division game Oct. 25 at Lancaster.
The Raiders intercepted Lancaster quarterback Tyler Monk four times, returning two for touchdowns in the fourth quarter, on their way to a 28-7 win.
Reynoldsburg improved to 9-1 overall to likely lock up the No. 1 seed for the Division I, Region 2 playoffs and finished 4-1 in the OCC-Ohio, forging a tie with the Golden Gales for the league title.
Lancaster, which needed a win to have a shot at the Division I, Region 3 playoffs, had its six-game winning streak snapped and finished 6-4 overall.
“We just had to really stay focused,” Raiders quarterback Michael Whatley said. “We didn’t have our best half the first half, but the coaches talked to us (at halftime), got our minds focused and made it happen. It feels great.”
Lancaster led 7-6 at halftime and trailed only 9-7 after Cocy Goff kicked a 19-yard field goal for the Raiders with 5 minutes, 26 seconds to go in the third quarter.
That’s when things began to unravel for the Gales.
On the ensuing drive after Goff’s field goal, Lancaster moved deep into Reynoldsburg territory. But on fourth and a long 1 from the Raiders 6, the Gales elected to go for it and Alex Widener was stopped a half yard short.
Two plays later, on the first play of the fourth quarter, Whatley hit Mershawn Rice for a 94-yard touchdown to give Reynoldsburg a 16-7 lead.
Lancaster had the ball at the Raiders 19 early in the fourth quarter but Evan Jenkins intercepted a pass to end the threat.
On another drive inside Reynoldsburg territory, Rice intercepted a pass by Monk and ran 98 yards for a touchdown with 4:35 to go to make it 22-7. Then with three minutes left, Breyon Eddings intercepted Monk and returned the ball 60 yards for a touchdown to complete the scoring.
“We just got tough,” Raiders coach Buddy White said. “We had them lined up right and got very physical with them.”
The Raiders took a 6-0 lead with 7:36 left in the opening quarter on a 1-yard run by Guy Cowans-Wright. The drive was set up by an interception that was returned to the Lancaster 26 by Camby Goff.
The Gales drove to the Raiders 17 on the ensuing drive but missed a field goal to end the possession. Monk threw four completions for first downs on third-down plays.
With 59 seconds left in the first half, Widener ran for a 1-yard touchdown to complete a nine-play, 72-yard drive. On second-and-10 from the Reynoldsburg 26, Max Hamilton caught a pass just inbounds at the Raiders 3 to set up the score.
==========Team 1 2 3 4 Final REYNOLDSBURG 6 0 3 19 28 LANCASTER
0 7 0 0 7
R—Cowans-Wright 1 run (kick failed)
L—Widener 1 run (Slater kick)
R—Goff 19 FG
R—Rice 94 pass from Whatley (Goff kick)
R—Rice 98 interception return (kick failed)
R—Eddings 60 interception return (kick failed)