Gahanna Lincoln at Reynoldsburg: Raiders hope to turn tables on Lions
After going more than a decade without making the postseason, the Reynoldsburg football team qualified in 2015 and in each of the past two seasons.
During each of the seasons the Raiders made the playoffs, they also lost, coincidentally, to Gahanna Lincoln.
The Lions handed Reynoldsburg its only regular-season loss in 2018 with a 10-7 decision before winning 29-28 last season to post their first victory after a 0-6 start.
Gahanna will try to make it three in a row in the series when it visits Reynoldsburg on Friday, Aug. 28, in the opener for both teams.
"We've had a couple good teams the last couple years and they're the team that beat us both years," Raiders coach Buddy White said. "They look at us like we look at Pick Central. We're their rival. They really get fired up to play us. No matter how hard I try, I keep telling these kids, look at Gahanna, we were 6-0 and they were 3-3 (in 2018) and they beat us. Last year, we were 5-1 and up 28-7 against an 0-6 Gahanna team and they came back and beat us. Gahanna played hard against us and I'm not sure we matched their level of intensity, but that won't be an issue this year, trust me."
The Lions finished 3-7 and the Raiders went 7-4 last season, but Gahanna placed third (3-2) in the OCC-Ohio Division while Reynoldsburg was fourth (2-3).
The Raiders are now in the OCC-Buckeye while the Lions remain in the OCC-Ohio, turning their matchup into an OCC crossover to begin a six-game regular season that features five league contests to complete both teams' schedules.
Reynoldsburg returns a junior quarterback in Dijon Jennings who could be poised for a breakout season after throwing for 594 yards and seven touchdowns in a part-time role last season.
The only other key players who have returned for the Raiders, however, are seniors Terrell Burton (OL/DL), Dalton Hall (OL/DL), N'Rique Love (WR/DB) and Mekhai Woodfork (RB/DL).
White expects senior Daniel Broomfield to take on the role of No. 1 running back.
The Lions, meanwhile, struggled a year ago after making the playoffs in four of Bruce Ward's first five seasons as coach.
Gahanna played seven teams that made the playoffs last season, including Division I state champion Pickerington Central and state runner-up Cincinnati Elder.
The Lions have a new quarterback in senior Trey Burger, but there are plenty of other spots on the field where they have experience.
Senior Tommy Bailey (OL/DL), junior Kane Baker (WR/DB) and sophomore Jaden Yates (RB/LB) are among their top returnees.
"We've got a lot of challenges this year and it's been an obviously abnormal offseason," Ward said.
"We're excited to be back. We have some momentum and some vision of where we're going."
GAHANNA LINCOLN at REYNOLDSBURG
*When: 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 28
*Last meeting: 2019, Gahanna 29-28
*Top Lions: Ricky Alli (RB/LB), Tommy Bailey (OL/DL), Kane Baker (WR/DB), Trey Burger (QB), Ronald Blackman (RB/DB), Mondra Curry (RB/LB), Mykohl Martin (OL/DL), Brendon Raymond (WR/DB) and Jaden Yates (RB/LB)
*Top Raiders: Justin Barko (WR/P), Kaleb Bernardin (OL/DL), Daniel Broomfield (RB), Terrell Burton (DL/OL), Dalton Hall (OL/DL), Dijon Jennings (QB), N'Rique Love (WR/DB), Ajani Preston (DB/RB) and Mekhai Woodfork (DL/RB)