One of the few goals that the Reynoldsburg High School football team set this fall that it didn't accomplish was winning a regional championship for the first time.
Those hopes ended Nov. 9 for the top-seeded Raiders with a 10-0 loss to fourth-seeded Olentangy Liberty in a Division I, Region 2 semifinal at DeSales.
Just being in that position, though, isn't lost on players such as senior Jay Amburgey, a three-year regular for a team that went 6-4 in 2016 and 7-3 last year and missed the playoffs both seasons.
Reynoldsburg won just the second playoff game in program history when it beat eighth-seeded Toledo Start 52-0 on Nov. 2.
"Reynoldsburg is no longer the old Reynoldsburg everybody used to see," Amburgey said. "We're going to go for the regional championship every year. The people of Reynoldsburg will be used to winning. The seniors of this team along with the coaches wanted to turn this program around and set the football program and future teams on the right path. We wanted to give them a path to follow and show them that we can reach our goals."
The Raiders, who finished 10-2 overall, outgained Liberty 231-28 in total yards in the first half and 267-153 for the game but committed four turnovers.
The Patriots led 3-0 at halftime and scored the game's only touchdown with 10 minutes, 21 seconds left in the third quarter on a 44-yard run by quarterback Mitchell Okuley on their way to improving to 8-4.
Liberty, which lost in state semifinals each of the past two seasons, will play second-seeded Dublin Coffman in the regional final Friday, Nov. 16.
"We lost to a well-coached team, a good team," Raiders coach Buddy White said. "We knew our weaknesses and they found out what our weaknesses were and they took advantage of that. The bottom line was, we couldn't mount a drive and we couldn't finish. But (four) turnovers ... that tells you everything. That explains it, especially against a team as good as they are."
The loss ended a season in which the Raiders earned a share of their first league championship since 1993, defeated both Pickerington North (33-31 on Sept. 28) and Pickerington Central (24-21 on Oct. 19) in the same season for the first time, and made the playoffs for the third time.
Reynoldsburg went 4-1 in the OCC-Ohio Division and shared the league title with Lancaster. The Raiders defeated the Golden Gales 28-7 on Oct. 25 in their regular-season finale to forge the first-place tie.
"The main thing that was special about this team that helped us have the season we had was the family atmosphere or brotherhood we established during camp days and during the offseason," Amburgey said. "The coaches put a big emphasis on beating both Pickerington teams. Another thing that was special about this team was we would not quit. We kept playing and believing in ourselves."
Amburgey (OL/DL) was among a 25-member senior class that featured seven first-team all-league selections in Jeremiah Burton (OL/DL), Dezman Cooper (LB/DL/RB), Guy Cowans-Wright (RB), Camby Goff (WR/DB), Ke'Shun Moorer (LB) and Mershawn Rice (WR/DB) as well as Amburgey. Cooper was named league Player of the Year.
Senior J'Vonte Edwards (RB) was second-team all-league and senior Savion Turner (OL/DL) was special mention all-league.
Burton, an Ohio University commit, had 75 tackles and 13 tackles for loss, Cooper had 16 tackles for loss and scored seven touchdowns and Amburgey, an Ohio commit, had 15 tackles for loss.
Rice, a Purdue commit, had 22 receptions for 462 yards and five touchdowns and had three interceptions, including two that he returned for touchdowns.
Edwards rushed 95 times for 513 yards and three touchdowns, Cowans-Wright had 114 carries for 519 yards and eight scores and Goff rushed for 110 yards and a touchdown and had 15 receptions for 271 yards and three scores on offense to go with two interceptions and one fumble recovery on defense.
Moorer was the team leader in tackles with 85 and had 15.5 tackles for loss.
Other key seniors included wide receiver Princeton Hoskins, who had 17 receptions, and punter Emmanuel Crawford, who averaged 37.9 yards per punt and had nine land inside the 20.
Although the Raiders will be losing much of their experience on the offensive and defensive lines, they expect to return several key contributors at the skill positions.
Junior quarterback Michael Whatley completed 122 of 218 passes for 1,829 yards with 17 touchdowns and nine interceptions, and junior running back Courtland Bullard rushed 59 times for 356 yards and four touchdowns.
Juniors Shon Strickland (27 receptions, 408 yards, 5 TDs), James Dean (20 receptions, 271 yards, 2 TDs) and Andree' Mock (18 receptions, 235 yards, 1 TD) all are eligible to return at wide receiver.
Sophomore running back Omari Jones rushed for 145 yards and had a touchdown reception.
On defense, sophomore lineman Keyshaun Slaughter (26 tackles) and junior backs Cocy Goff (41 tackles) and Breyon Eddings (5 interceptions) all should return.
Cocy Goff also made 38 extra points and five of six field-goal attempts.
Bullard, Eddings, Strickland and Whatley were second-team all-league and Cocy Goff was first-team all-league at kicker. Slaughter was honorable mention all-league.
"I love (this team)," White said. "This senior class, it's so hard to see them go away. I want them to really understand what they did. They accomplished so much. I've never had so much fun during a season in my life. I just hate for it to be over."