Reynoldsburg: Raiders striving for strong offseason
Keeping in mind that his program paused workouts twice during the summer because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, Reynoldsburg football coach Buddy White couldn’t help but be skeptical regarding whether there would even be a season this fall.
The Raiders managed to get in all six of their regularly scheduled games, however, and believe they set themselves up for the offseason by turning in some of their best performances during the playoffs.
After losing 41-40 to Lancaster on Sept. 18, Reynoldsburg got another shot at the Golden Gales three weeks later in the first round of the Division I, Region 3 playoffs.
Seeded fifth in the 16-team region, Reynoldsburg crushed 12th-seeded Lancaster 53-19 and then came up just short in a 31-30 loss to 13th-seeded Hilliard Bradley in a regional quarterfinal to finish 4-4 overall.
“We got eight games in, so I was very happy,” White said. “Never in my wildest dreams did I think we'd make it through a season. Some kids got some very valuable experience. Knowing the number of kids we have coming back, the key is going to be our offseason program. We have to do it without interruption, so that's what we're doing now, planning our offseason program. We're probably going to have the most ambitious pre-league schedule (next fall) since I’ve been here.”
Reynoldsburg tied Central Crossing and Lancaster for third (2-3) in the OCC-Buckeye Division behind champion Pickerington Central (5-0).
The Raiders, who have competed in the playoffs in four of White’s 10 seasons, open next season against Upper Arlington and follow with games against Huber Heights Wayne, Massillon Washington, Gahanna and Olentangy. Four of those programs won at least one playoff game.
Reynoldsburg heads into next season with a three-year regular at quarterback in junior Dijon Jennings, who has offers from Eastern Michigan and Kentucky. He completed 80 of 150 passes for 1,394 yards with 18 touchdowns and eight interceptions and rushed for 220 yards and two scores.
Against Bradley, he connected with junior wide receiver Markez Gillam for a 4-yard touchdown with 16 seconds remaining but the two-point conversion attempt failed.
Gillam, who finished with 33 receptions for 642 yards and eight touchdowns and returned two kickoffs and one punt for scores, gives the Raiders another capable skill-position player to build around.
Running back Daniel Broomfield will be lost to graduation after rushing for 669 yards and seven touchdowns on 87 carries, but junior running back Jeremiah Crawford-Smith had 347 yards and four touchdowns on 44 carries and sophomore running back James Williams rushed for seven touchdowns.
“(This season) was big for us as a program,” Jennings said. “We got a lot of young guys who got the experience going into next year. I’m glad we got to play for the seniors. It was an up-and-down year, but I think we had fun.”
Other losses to graduation on offense include Ajani Preston and Mekhai Woodfork at running back, N’Rique Love and Justin Barko at wide receiver and Kaleb Bernardin, Dalton Hall and Jehan Martin on the line.
Expected to return at receiver are junior Savian Torrence (22 receptions for 344 yards, 4 touchdowns) and sophomore Jabari Mitchell, while juniors Souleymane Sall and Caleb Turner should be back up front.
Defensively, among those expected back are Turner and sophomore Patrick O’Brien on the line, juniors Zion Jackson-Wilborn and Alex Uhl and sophomores Chris Karr and Mitchell at linebacker and junior Asanie Harris and sophomores Alex Crump-Whitson, Shawn Payne and Tehron Spencer in the secondary.
Freshman kicker Landon Miars made 26 extra points and one field goal.
“This year we had 19 first-time starters,” White said. “They got better and better as the season went on and I was very, very pleased with their development. A great example is the first Lancaster game versus the second Lancaster game.
“It really looks promising for the future. We have to have a great offseason because this COVID virus is still out there. We’ve got to stay diligent.”
•Record: 4-4 overall
•OCC-Buckeye standings: Pickerington Central (5-0), Groveport (3-1), Central Crossing (2-3), Lancaster (2-3), Reynoldsburg (2-3), Newark (0-4)
•Seniors lost: OuMar Bahr, Sharbach Bantoe, Justin Barko, Kaleb Bernardin, Daniel Broomfield, Terrell Burton, Jordan Haley, Dalton Hall, Aaron Harding, Solomon Hill, Dudley Jaboin, Yohance Kumnegere, N’Rique Love, Jehan Martin, Kehinde McComb, Ajani Preston, Yousef Sammour, Nate Tariku and Mekhai Woodfork
•Key returnees: Jeremiah Crawford-Smith, Dijon Jennings, Markez Gillam, Jabari Mitchell, Souleymane Sall, Savian Torrence and Caleb Turner