Particularly early on this season, the Reynoldsburg High School football team expects its front seven to lead its defense.

Particularly early on this season, the Reynoldsburg High School football team expects its front seven to lead its defense.

Seniors Mark Gooden and Chris Tudor give the Raiders a pair of experienced linemen, and senior Nigel Chatman is in his second year as a key linebacker.

That group is hoping to keep the pressure off a secondary that has a mostly new look other than junior Sam Cooper, who is the only returning starter.

Reynoldsburg's strength should be helpful when it plays Friday, Sept. 4, at St. Charles, whose scheme is a run-focused spread offense that attempted an average of fewer than 15 passes per game last season.

On Aug. 28, the Raiders opened by beating New Albany 48-42 in two overtimes and the Cardinals opened with a 38-0 win over Columbus South.

"With our front seven, we have quite a bit of experience, so we're hoping they do a good job of controlling the line of scrimmage and putting pressure on the passer," coach Buddy White said. "That will make it easier for the guys in the secondary. Obviously (Gooden) is a major part of what we do."

Gooden is a Northwestern recruit who plays defensive end in the Raiders' scheme.

"We're going to take advantage of his abilities, but we've got quite a few players on the defensive side of the ball back this year," White said.

St. Charles is led on offense by senior quarterback Joe Maciejewski and senior Otis Smith, who plays a variety of roles, including running back and wide receiver.

The Raiders snapped a two-game skid against New Albany as Chatman rushed for both of their touchdowns, from 6 and 8 yards, in overtime.

Offensively, Reynoldsburg also features junior quarterback Nathan Barko, senior running backs Amos Paasewe and Cameron Young and senior wide receiver J.J. Cooper.

Young ran for 189 yards, including a 12-yard touchdown, on 23 carries against New Albany. Barko completed 14 of 27 passes for 161 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. Both of the touchdowns went to Cooper, covering 26 and 17 yards.

Young athletes setting pace in cross country

With no seniors in the program, both the boys and girls cross country teams are focusing on improving times and learning.

On Aug. 29 in the Pickerington Classic at Pickerington North, the boys finished 13th (316) of 19 teams in the Bengal Division behind champion Hilliard Davidson (35) and the girls were 13th (364) of 23 teams in the Bengal Division behind champion Thomas Worthington (43).

"This is a rebuilding year for both teams, having mostly freshmen and sophomores," third-year coach Madeline Schultz said. "As with most young teams, we expect a lot of personal bests throughout the season. Our junior leaders are ready to take their training to the next level and will see smaller but more ambitious gains than they did (in past years)."

Back to lead the boys team are juniors John Mauritz and Joey Russell. Sophomore Jared Dye and freshmen Zac Albrecht, Cameron Davis, Brody Swisher and Andy Young also are looking to contribute.

Last season, Russell placed 41st (17 minutes, 10.94 seconds) in the Division I, district 3 meet as the top 24 individuals advanced to regional.

The girls have had to replace their No. 1 runner from the past four years in Leah Wallace, who now is competing at Eastern Michigan. Last season, she placed sixth (20:17.18) in the OCC-Ohio Division meet, ninth (19:45.61) in district 2 and 36th (20:45.13) at regional as the top 16 advanced to state.

Back to lead the girls are junior Abby Hutson-Comeaux and sophomore Chanel Boykins.

Others on the team include junior Rachel Huffman, sophomores Claire McCloud and Annalese Roach and freshmen Natalie Castello and Amanda McIntyre.

"The girls have put in a lot of work this summer and are ready to work hard this fall," Schultz said. "It's been awhile since we've had such a strong girls team."

Junior trio leading golfers

As expected, juniors Chase Collins, Zac Peters and Reece Strohm have led the way for the boys golf team.

Peters shot 78 on Aug. 11 in the first round of the OCC-Ohio tournament at Darby Creek and 77 on Aug. 17 in the second round at Apple Valley.

Heading into the third round Sept. 2 at Clover Valley, Peters was sixth in the league in average at 77 and Strohm was eighth (81).

Collins shot 97 in the first round but bounced back with an 84 in the second round.

The Raiders' other competitor in league matches has been freshman Trey Albert.

The final round is Sept. 16 at Turnberry.

"(Our) top player has been Zac Peters," coach Chip Warren said.

"The team is hoping to show continued improvement in the second half of the season."