With some of its expected returnees deciding to concentrate on other sports or activities, the Reynoldsburg girls cross country team is hoping its depth improves as the season progresses.

The opening meet was a sign that could be a realistic expectation for the Raiders.

On Aug. 24 in the Hartford Twilight Invitational at the Hartford Fairgrounds, Reynoldsburg scored 195 points to place seventh of 15 teams behind champion Granville (56).

"The girls team is starting to buy into the process," third-year coach Bill Crane said. "We've been continuously preaching to the entire program to set goals with a plan to execute them and you'll get out of it what you put into it."

Leading the way again this season is junior Avril Moyer, a two-time Division I regional qualifier who placed eighth (19 minutes, 42.6 seconds) in the Hartford Twilight Invitational. Last season, Moyer ran 19:24.4 to finish ninth in the district 2 meet and then placed 51st (20:44.2) at regional as the top 20 advanced to state.

"(The Hartford meet) was one of my best first races I've ever had," Moyer said. "I'm really excited for the next couple. I think we all have a lot of potential to do really well this season and I'm really excited. I made it to regional in both my freshman and sophomore years and I'm hoping to make state this season."

Junior Kristin Sheets and sophomores Abby Robinson and Paige Castello are the next three top runners. Castello, who did not compete last fall, is the younger sister of 2019 graduate Natalie Castello, a four-year competitor.

Juniors Alyse Powell and Macey Thompson also should be top contributors, with senior Bella Hutson-Comeaux rounding out the lineup.

"Avril Moyer has been at the regional two straight years and is working hard to reach the goal of state," Crane said. "She had a great first race. Kristin Sheets has been the most dedicated runner on the girls side. ... Abby Robinson has really come a long way this past month in her training."

Strong trio leading boys runners

The boys cross country team turned in an eighth-place finish (206) in the 13-team Hartford Twilight Invitational behind champion Olentangy Orange (53).

Senior Wendesen King finished 23rd (16:53.7), with juniors Seth Davis (31st, 17:10.8) and Mars Davis (33rd, 17:11.4) -- who are not related -- not far behind.

Seth Davis was 98th (17:55.6) at regional last season.

"The boys team has a lot of potential," Crane said. "The team has been transitioning from middle-distance runners to true distance kids. It's a process, but most definitely coming together nicely. The core of the boys team has really bought into the plan. Wendesen King, Seth Davis and Mars Davis have been incredibly dedicated to their continuous development."

Senior Grant Boone, juniors Mekhi Dejarnette and Dominic Sabo and sophomore Andy Potter also are top competitors for the Raiders.

Others looking to contribute include juniors Jonathan Begeny and Ephratah Hailu and freshmen Elijah Herlocher and Kai Moyer.

Football team excited about skill players

As it prepared for its opener Aug. 30 against Upper Arlington, the football team was feeling good about its numerous offensive options.

Senior Courtland Bullard entered the season as the most likely running back to receive carries, but seniors Cocy Goff and MarcAnthony Gray and junior Omari Jones also looked like viable options.

At wide receiver, seniors James Dean, Andree' Mock and Shon Strickland provide a trio that could be one of the deeper groups in central Ohio.

Also, the continued improvement of sophomore Dijon Jennings behind senior Michael Whatley gives the Raiders another option at quarterback.

Even without Mershawn Rice, a 2019 graduate who is now competing for Purdue, the Raiders aren't expecting to struggle to score.

"These kids know they can't slack off because there are guys who are ready to play (behind them)," coach Buddy White said.

Reynoldsburg ran the ball in about 60 percent of its plays last season, but one of its best passing games came against the team it will face next.

On Friday, Sept. 6, the Raiders play host to Licking Heights in a rematch of a game they won 44-0 last season.

The Hornets, who went on to finish 6-4, have a new coach in Kele Waaland. He had served as an assistant for 14 seasons under Darren Waters, who guided the program to a 100-49 record with five playoff appearances and is now an assistant at Otterbein.

In last year's matchup, Whatley threw for 201 yards and two touchdowns, and Strickland had four catches for 87 yards and one score.

The Hornets will lean on their experience up front as they try to be more competitive against the Raiders.

Senior Reid Holskey is a 6-foot-7, 272-pound offensive tackle who has committed to Miami University.

Junior Jesse Williamson is at center, with seniors Trent Coulter and Jordan Hinkle and juniors Nate Pack and Chase Wallace also playing key roles on the line.

They'll battle a Reynoldsburg defensive front that features sophomore Keyshaun Slaughter (6-1, 330) and senior Micah Coleman.

julrey@thisweeknews.com

@UlreyThisWeek

Schedules

Below are the coming schedules for the Reynoldsburg cross country, boys soccer, girls soccer, girls tennis and girls volleyball teams:

CROSS COUNTRY

Sept. 7 -- McGowan Invitational at Watkins Memorial

BOYS SOCCER

*Sept. 10 -- At Gahanna

GIRLS SOCCER

Sept. 5 -- Home vs. Delaware

*Sept. 10 -- Home vs. Gahanna

GIRLS TENNIS

*Sept. 5 -- At Lancaster

Sept. 9 -- Home vs. Columbus School for Girls

Sept. 10 -- Home vs. Newark

Sept. 11 -- At Mount Vernon

GIRLS VOLLEYBALL

*Sept. 5 -- Home vs. Grove City

Sept. 7 -- At Licking Heights

*Sept. 10 -- At Pickerington Central

*League contest