Seeing action in four games, including one start, a year ago had the exact effect that junior Nathan Barko of the Reynoldsburg High School football team was hoping for.

Seeing action in four games, including one start, a year ago had the exact effect that junior Nathan Barko of the Reynoldsburg High School football team was hoping for.

He never felt more driven than he did during the past offseason.

"We had a bad season last year, but it energized us and we worked really hard in conditioning," Barko said. "Once I got that little taste last year, I couldn't stop wanting it. I gained 15 pounds from being in the weight room every day and actually saw a quarterback personal trainer who helped me with my footwork."

Barko's improvement at quarterback is among the reasons the Raiders got out to a 2-0 start for the first time since 2001.

The Raiders open OCC-Ohio Division action Friday, Sept. 18, at home against Grove City in a rematch of a game in which Barko saw his varsity action.

Although Reynoldsburg beat the Dawgs 20-10 for its first victory of what would be a 3-7 season, Barko was intercepted twice after coming off the bench.

He's been the unquestioned starter since the beginning of two-a-days this summer.

Barko passed for 161 yards and two touchdowns in a 48-42 double-overtime win over New Albany on Aug. 28 and for 173 yards in a 37-22 win over St. Charles on Sept. 4.

The Raiders then lost 26-7 on Sept. 11 to Middletown, a team it lost to 35-20 a year ago, in their final non-league game. Barko passed for 205 yards and one touchdown, but Reynoldsburg was held to 80 yards rushing on 24 attempts (3.3 average).

"We're executing a little better (than last year)," coach Buddy White said. "I'm real big into repetition and the kids get sick of it, but I don't want them thinking, I want them reacting.

"We've got some really talented backs and some really talented receivers, and our quarterback is getting better and better every week. Nathan's very smart, a very intelligent quarterback, and he's done a lot of work on his mechanics. He's night and day from last year."

Grove City struggled to a 2-8 record a year ago in coach Mike Lanza's first season. The Dawgs lost to Westerville South 28-24 on Sept. 11 to fall to 1-2.

While the Raiders' offense averaged 385 yards over the first two games, the Dawgs have senior quarterback Jeremy Ford leading their spread offense.

On defense, Cameron Cormany (DB), Xavier Moore (DB) and Tre Morgan (DL) are the top players for Grove City.

"It's nice and we're happy (to get off to a good start), but we can't be patting ourselves on the back," White said. "You can only celebrate so much when you see what you've got coming down the pike. We've got Grove City at home for our league opener, so that's going to be a special time."

Boys soccer team finding form

After being held scoreless in each of its first two games, the boys soccer team found the net four times Sept. 8 against Pickerington Central.

The Raiders now are looking for consistency on both sides of the field.

Reynoldsburg opened with a scoreless tie against Canal Winchester on Aug. 25 before playing league games against Grove City (1-0 loss Sept. 1) and Central (4-all tie Sept. 4). It should face one of the OCC-Ohio's strongest teams when it travels Monday, Sept. 21, to Pickerington North.

The Raiders beat Licking Heights 9-1 on Sept. 12 to improve to 1-1-2 overall.

"I felt like we played well against Canal Winchester but played absolutely dreadfully against Grove City," coach Thomie Timmons said.

"I think they all felt like the Grove City game was like a 6-0 loss, but we'll get it going."

Senior Cole Mathias scored two goals against Central. Also scoring were junior Mitch Klecan and sophomore Gabe Philhower, who also had seven saves at goalkeeper.

Philhower, senior Victor Boskovski and juniors Austin Biller and Griffin Thompson are part of a defense that has been a bright spot, according to Timmons.

Senior Caleb Holbrook, who missed two games after being ejected against Canal Winchester, also is expected to be a key member of the defense.

"We have a really, really good goalkeeper," Timmons said. "He got a bunch of stops in the Canal Winchester game. Gabe Philhower has got a lot of potential and is a good kid, too.

"We have a really strong defense and a really strong midfield. We have a lot of potential if we can get on track."

Boys, girls runners gaining experience

Junior Joey Russell is off to a solid start for the boys cross country team.

In the Asics Hot Summer Bash on Sept. 5 at Hilliard Davidson, Russell took 61st (17 minutes, 47.96 seconds) in the varsity race.

Also running were juniors John Mauritz, Gad Owusu and Greg Crafter.

Reynoldsburg, which also had nine runners compete in the boys race for freshmen and sophomores, then was 27th (736) of 31 teams in the McGowan Invitational on Sept. 12 at Watkins Memorial behind champion Thomas Worthington (66). Russell was 60th (17:34.86).

Junior Abby Hutson-Comeaux and sophomore Chanel Boykins have led the girls team.

In the Hot Summer Bash, Hutson-Comeaux and junior Rachel Huffman competed in the varsity race and Boykins and freshman Natalie Castello led a group of nine runners in the race for freshmen and sophomores.

Boykins ran 22:56.24, Castello finished in 23:27.62 and Hutson-Comeaux ran 24:40.73 in their respective races.

Reynoldsburg then was 24th (646) of 27 teams in the McGowan Invitational behind champion Olentangy Liberty (47). Boykins was 110th (22:38.33).