Reynoldsburg Roundup: Markez Gillam, junior class boost Raiders

Jarrod Ulrey
ThisWeek group
Reynoldsburg junior Markez Gillam tries to secure a pass while Groveport’s Delaney Wilburn defends earlier this season. Gillam has been a key contributor for the Raiders, who play Thursday, Oct. 1, at home against Pickerington Central and then will prepare for the Division I postseason.

With a limited number of seniors, the Reynoldsburg football team has relied on a junior class that features players such as running back Jeremiah Crawford-Smith and wide receiver Savian Torrence to fill key roles for the first time. 

Another junior, wide receiver and return specialist Markez Gillam, is someone whom coach Buddy White calls “a home run hitter.” 

In the Raiders’ 41-40 loss to Lancaster on Sept. 18, junior quarterback Dijon Jennings hooked up with Torrence for three touchdowns and 102 yards on five catches and with Gillam for 64 yards on four receptions. 

Gillam, who returned two kickoffs for touchdowns over the first three games, also produced 195 yards on five kickoff returns against the Golden Gales. 

“One of the roles I’m playing is being a playmaker and making plays to help my teammates to get open,” Gillam said. “My teammates do a good job of setting the wall (on kickoff returns) and letting me do what I do in hitting the hole.” 

Gillam, who is listed at just 5-foot-5 and 135 pounds, was hoping to have been a key contributor on the boys track and field team as a sprinter last spring before the season was canceled because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. 

“Growing up I’ve always been the smallest one in the group, so it’s not been a problem,” Gillam said. “I’ve shown more heart than other people have.” 

Reynoldsburg was 3-2 overall and 2-2 in the OCC-Buckeye Division after beating Central Crossing 34-10 on Sept. 25. 

The Raiders close the regular season Thursday, Oct. 1, at home against Pickerington Central before the Division I, Region 3 playoffs begin Oct. 9. 

Reynoldsburg scored at least 40 points in three of its first four games despite having new players contributing throughout the offense. 

The return of Jennings, who split the snaps at quarterback last season with 2020 graduate Michael Whatley, has helped. 

Gillam had eight catches for 88 yards and one touchdown in a 45-14 loss to Groveport on Sept. 4 and has 23 receptions for 460 yards and five scores on the season. He had six catches for 230 yards and two touchdowns against Central Crossing. 

“(Gillam) is doing a remarkable job,” White said. “He’s been averaging close to 200 total yards a game with being a receiver and return man. He’s very explosive and is just a great kid. He’s very quick on his feet. When he makes his moves, he makes them on full speed and can go from zero to 50 in no time at all. 

“We’re literally only playing about (four) seniors. People need to realize we start eight guys on defense that were playing (junior varsity or) freshman football last year and five of those were playing freshman football last year. These kids are getting valuable experience.” 

Volleyball team 

finding success 

One of the things first-year girls volleyball coach Cassie Tackett was especially excited about when the season began was how much potential she saw in the young players in the program. 

Three of the team’s top players this fall have been freshmen Maran Chang (middle hitter), Carmen Heckman (outside hitter) and Sabrina Ripple (middle hitter). All stand between 5-10 and 6-0. 

“We have a ton of potential,” Tackett said. 

The Raiders went 8-15 last season but are well on their way to surpassing that win total, at 6-5 overall before playing Olentangy Liberty on Sept. 28.  

Reynoldsburg was 1-3 in the OCC-Buckeye before facing Groveport on Sept. 30, and it will play two matches Saturday, Oct. 3, at Westerville North. 

The Division I district tournament drawing is Oct. 11. 

Through 11 matches, senior outside hitter Jordan Brooks was leading in kills (70), digs (46) and serves received (94). Heckman was first in service aces (15) and junior setter Kyra Frasier was first in assists (117).  

Junior defensive specialist Emily Burt had 41 digs. 

Other key players have included seniors Mica Crockett (right-side hitter), Arianne Melendez (defensive specialist) and Ariyana Peters (defensive specialist).   

Soccer teams prep 

for postseason 

The regular season is winding down for the boys and girls soccer teams, with the Division I district tournament drawing set for Oct. 11 in both sports. 

The boys were 4-4-2 overall after losing to Pickerington North 4-0 on Sept. 24. They are 1-0-1 in the OCC-Buckeye, beating Newark 1-0 on Sept. 22 and tying Groveport at 1 on Sept. 15. 

Reynoldsburg finished first (4-0-1) in the OCC-Ohio last season while North was runner-up (3-0-2). 

The girls lost to Newark 2-1 on Sept. 22 to drop to 4-5-1 overall and 1-1 in the OCC-Buckeye. 

The Raiders continue league action Thursday, Oct. 1, at home against Lancaster and Tuesday, Oct. 6, at home against Central Crossing. 

On Sept. 15, Reynoldsburg opened league play with an 8-3 victory over Groveport. It also has posted wins over Westerville South (6-0 on Aug. 27), Westland (12-0 on Sept. 1) and Logan (5-3 on Sept. 19). 

Senior forwards Ryanne Buck and Cassidy Collins and sophomore defender/midfielder Maya Johnson have been the top players on offense, with junior goalie Abby Starkey leading the defense. 

julrey@thisweeknews.com 

@UlreyThisWeek