(Statistical Information Courtesy of NWPASports.com archives)
REYNOLDS RAIDERS 2022 FOOTBALL SEASON PREVIEW
Head Coach: Josh Mull, 9th year (48-47)
Last Year: 7-5 overall, Won District 10 1A title, advanced to PIAA Playoffs
After capturing consecutive District 10 Class 1A championships, one might think that the Reynolds Raiders would be due to take a step back in 2022. But with a 2,000-yard rusher, the school's first 1,000-yard passer, four returning starting linemen and Mercer County's leading pass thief all back from the 2021 season, the Raiders are primed for another long run this fall.
Overall, the Raiders welcome back seven starters on each side of the ball.
"We've been fairly lucky over the past several years to have a lot of kids who have had a lot of playing time," head coach Josh Mull said. "Some of these guys have been starting since they were freshmen or have had a lot of playing time since they were freshmen."
The last two seasons have been fruitful for the Raiders but Mull quickly pointed out that Reynolds must be solely focused on 2022.
"We can't live in what we've done over the last two seasons. It's a brand new season," Mull said. "We have to focus week in and week out. I know it's cliché.
"One of the things that has made Wilmington so successful over the year is that they have remained humble and I think that's exactly where we have to be," Mull continued. "We've put ourselves in a position where people want to beat the Reynolds Raiders. In order to remain successful, we have to really prepare and get better each and every week."
Senior running back Jalen Wagner ran for 2,063 yards and 25 touchdowns last season, earning All-Region and All-State honors. He finished with 28 total touchdowns and 2,399 scrimmage yards. Not surprisingly, he will be a focal point of the Reynolds offense -- and opposing defenses -- this season.
"I've been very pleased with Jalen's work ethic during camp," Mull said. "This year, he has been really working hard and I expect great things from him. He's a tremendous competitor and a tremendous talent. He's very patient when he runs the ball. He has great vision and great speed. We're excited to have him back."
The Raiders will be far from one-dimensional, however, as senior quarterback Brayden McCloskey returns after throwing for 1,065 yards and a dozen touchdowns in 2021. Wagner (21 receptions) and senior Haydin McLaughlin (18 catches) return after being the top two targets last year.
"You might see 'Air Raiders' this year," Mull said with a laugh. "I think we'll plan to use more spread sets. That's a huge change for us. It allows us to do the same things we've always done but from a different vantagepoint. We're still a run-first offense."
Junior Kolton Wilkinson will help anchor the offensive line at center. Senior Alex Winkelvoss returns at guard while seniors Nate Leksell and Nate Miller are the returning starters at tackle. The fifth spot remains open, according to Mull.
"We feel fairly confident in the leadership and experience of our linemen," Mull said.
Leksell and Wilkinson will play tackle in the Raiders' 4-3 defense. Miller and McCloskey will be the ends.
According to Mull, the linebacking unit "is a work in progress." Wagner will play strongside linebacker after briefly switching to safety in preseason. Junior Travis Blackburn is expected to start at middle linebacker and senior newcomer Vito Gentile has the inside track at weakside linebacker.
Junior Kevyn Malgieri returns at cornerback. First-year seniors Prestin Bertolasio and Tino Gentile are in contention at the other cornerback spot. All-State honoree McLaughlin intercepted six passes in 2021 and returns at safety. Sophomore Andrew McCloskey moved from linebacker to safety will compete with Tino Gentile for the other starting safety position.
"Andrew McCloskey runs the alley well. We're really excited to see what he can do at safety," Mull said.
McLaughlin will punt after earning All-Region recognition at that position in 2021. Miller, Brayden McCloskey and freshman Xavier Zachrich are vying for place-kicking chores.
Reynolds will compete in Region 1, an eight-team league consisting of Class 1A programs. The Raiders will play Mercer County rivals Kennedy, Lakeview and Mercer, along with Crawford County entries Cambridge Springs, Cochranton, Maplewood and Saegertown.
"There are a lot of teams in there that have done well the last several years," Mull said. "Cochranton went undefeated last year and won its region. Maplewood has been in the playoffs year in and year out. I'm really excited about having the opportunity to play teams that are our size.
"I'm super excited to see what the season has in store for us."