Reynoldsburg High School football coach Buddy White has admired from afar the job Darren Waters has done in leading Licking Heights to five playoff appearances since taking over as coach in 2006.
On Friday, Aug. 31, the teams separated by only a few miles will get a more personal look at one another when the Hornets play host to the Raiders.
Licking Heights has made the playoffs six times. It was a Division V program the first time it made it in 2001 and in Division IV during its second appearance in 2007.
The Hornets have been in Division II since 2011, and the Raiders are in Division I.
“I have no idea when or if we’ve ever played Licking Heights, but I know our kids are excited,” White said. “Their kids are excited. They all know each other from playing against each other growing up so it should be a nice backyard rivalry. Darren has done a great job over there, and I know they’re going to be prepared to play well against us. They’re going to play at home, and we’ve got to be able to match their intensity.”
Both teams are coming off tight opening-night road victories Aug. 24.
While Licking Heights beat Westland 34-32, the passing game and run defense were sharp for Reynoldsburg in a 17-14 victory over Upper Arlington.
Quarterback Michael Whatley completed 15 of 27 passes for 246 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. He connected with five receivers, with Mershawn Rice leading the way with seven catches for 146 yards and two scores.
White isn’t sure of the status of senior Princeton Hoskins, a key wide receiver and member of the return teams who was injured in the second quarter.
Junior James Dean figures to continue filling in at kick returner and punt returner if Hoskins is unavailable.
Licking Heights is led defensively by a secondary that features seniors Will Chatman and Zion Sharp at cornerback and senior safety Cody Trago.
“We knew (UA had) a strong offensive and defensive line so we had to beat them with our athletes,” White said. “(Whatley) as a whole did a good job as a field general getting the ball to the guys we needed him to, and it’s never wrong when you get the ball to Mershawn Rice.”
Dezman Cooper had 3.5 tackles for loss and one sack, Ke’Shun Moorer had 4.5 tackles and Jay Amburgey added two tackles for loss to lead the defense against UA.
White also was impressed with the play of freshman nose guard Keyshawn Slaughter.
Licking Heights is led offensively by senior quarterback Jake Righter, who is in his third season as a starter.
“I know they like to run the jet sweep and play action,” White said. “What they do, they do a good job at it.”