Only at the rarest of times since he took over as Reynoldsburg football coach in 2011 has Buddy White not known what to say to his team.
One of those moments came before the Raiders' 41-7 victory over Licking Heights on Sept. 6 as he continued to reflect on the death of Nigel Chatman, a 2016 graduate who started during one of the program's most memorable seasons as a senior in 2015.
That fall, Reynoldsburg ended a 14-year drought of not making the postseason by qualifying for the Division I, Region 3 playoffs. Chatman registered 75 tackles and set himself up for a career at Otterbein.
A few hours before the Raiders were to take the field against the Hornets, the news had spread that Chatman had died in an auto accident earlier in the day.
"We played with a really heavy heart," White said. "It was pretty emotional. I had a really hard time talking to the kids about it. I had a really good relationship with Nigel, much more than just (a) player-coach (relationship). He was a special young man.
"The kids responded well and wanted to play well in his memory, and they did. They want to carry this through the season."
The Raiders are 2-0 as they continue their non-league schedule Friday, Sept. 13, at Marion-Franklin. They opened with a 23-9 victory Aug. 30 over Upper Arlington, spoiling the debut of new Golden Bears coach Jeremey Scally.
Reynoldsburg seized control early against Licking Heights and led 34-0 at halftime, forcing a running clock in the second half.
The Hornets have a new coach in Kele Waaland and are 0-2, and the Red Devils also have a new coach in David Lakso.
Marion-Franklin opened with a 24-8 loss at Granville on Aug. 30 and gave Lakso his first win when it beat Westland 37-34 on Sept. 6.
The Red Devils, who lost to the Raiders 36-6 in Week 3 last season but went on to finish 7-3, held on against the Cougars when Westland missed a field goal during the final moments.
"I was really impressed with how we faced adversity and kept battling," Lakso said. "We had three turnovers in the first half and a drop on a wide-open touchdown. ... I was impressed with how we fought back and finished the game."
Against Westland, Jeremiah Tucker completed 14 of 21 passes for 212 yards and one touchdown and rushed nine times for 56 yards and one score. Taylen James had 22 rushes for 161 yards and three touchdowns, and Jesse Johnson had six catches for 102 yards and one score.
The Red Devils expect sophomore left guard Jaquan Lauderdale to play after he was out with an injury against Westland.
Lakso understands his team faces a tall task against the Raiders.
"They're real big and athletic," he said. "We've got 30 kids. I'm sure they've got about 30 kids at every position. We just want to compete and try to hold our own on a top Division I team. They're big and fast everywhere."
Against Licking Heights, the Raiders rotated sophomore Dijon Jennings and senior Michael Whatley at quarterback for the second consecutive game and both were effective.
Jennings completed all nine of his passes for 128 yards and two touchdowns and rushed five times for 71 yards, and Whatley was 5-for-11 passing for 113 yards and one score.
Wide receivers James Dean, Shon Strickland and Mikah Coleman all had one touchdown reception, and running back Omari Jones rushed for two scores.
The performance came on the heels of a day in which White did his best to hold his team -- and himself -- together.
"(Chatman) was a special young man," White said. "The kids all knew him. He was one of our biggest supporters and they want to dedicate the season to Nigel. ... It was a serious kick in the gut and I had to at least try to be strong for the team. Not sure I did a very good job of it, but we have some strong leaders on the team and they knew what we need to do to play to the memory of Nigel."