When it prepared for its Week 7 matchup against Gahanna a year ago, the Reynoldsburg football team hadn't lost a game and its opponent was coming off a competitive league-opening loss to Pickerington Central.

A similar situation is at hand heading into the Friday, Oct. 11, meeting between the host Raiders and Gahanna even if the OCC-Ohio Division matchup doesn't look quite as attractive in some aspects.

The Lions have qualified for the playoffs in four of the past five seasons but have had a rough go of it this fall, particularly on defense, where they have given up an average of 41.8 points during an 0-6 start.

In a 49-28 league-opening loss to Pickerington Central on Oct. 4, Gahanna allowed an interception return for a touchdown in the first half and trailed 21-0 at halftime, but charged back to score four second-half touchdowns while compiling 344 yards of offense.

Reynoldsburg, which followed a 6-0 start by losing to Gahanna 10-7 for its only loss of last year's regular season, fell 21-16 to Pickerington North on Oct. 4 in its league opener but is 5-1 and in playoff contention in Division I, Region 3.

"Obviously, we're still very encouraged," Raiders coach Buddy White said. "It was a very good game (against North). The kids played hard, and one thing I know about the OCC-Ohio is that you'd better get ready for the next one. (Gahanna plays) arguably one of the toughest schedules in the state of Ohio and the bottom line is that those guys are battle-tested and aren't going to go in and be afraid of us."

The teams the Lions have lost to are a combined 28-8, with five of their opponents holding 5-1 records.

The biggest bright spots for Gahanna have been on offense, where senior running back Travis Whittaker has rushed for 669 yards and four touchdowns on 99 carries and has 20 receptions for 210 yards and one score and senior quarterback Will Thomas is 76-for-151 passing for 1,086 yards with nine touchdowns and four interceptions.

One of Thomas' interceptions was returned 36 yards for a touchdown by Central's A.J. Sanders as the Tigers built a 14-0 lead midway through the first quarter.

"I feel like we just haven't put a whole game together and that we'll do that against Reynoldsburg and in these games going forward," Thomas said. "I know we're going to produce and do everything we can. I feel like we haven't reached our full potential yet, but we're just skimming the surface."

An interception return for a touchdown by North sealed the Raiders' loss as they fell behind 21-10 with 1 minute, 39 seconds left.

Reynoldsburg outgained North 283-273 in total yards but had 11 penalties totaling 75 yards and was held to 51 yards rushing.

Senior wide receiver Shon Strickland had seven receptions for 110 yards and a touchdown to lead the Raiders' offense.

"(Gahanna is) not a bad football team at all," White said. "I definitely know (coach) Bruce (Ward) will have those kids ready to play. Their games are nip and tuck and in a couple games the dam just broke on them. They've got good size and good athletes, and all of a sudden a guy busts a run for a touchdown (against) them or something else happens."

julrey@thisweeknews.com

@UlreyThisWeek