The 2022 football campaign for the Warren G. Harding Raiders opened with a 33-10 loss to the Medina Battling Bees. After losing star quarterback Drew Allar to graduation, Medina did not skip a beat with signal caller Danny Stoddard at the helm. Stoddard went 19/29 for 325 yards, 4 touchdowns and 1 interception. Going into this game, the Raiders knew they had to rely on their defensive line to apply pressure to force quick errant throws due to a young and inexperienced secondary. Heading into this week's matchup versus Akron Buchtel, the Raiders know that keeping it simple on the back-end, working on the fundamentals and technique, along with applying pressure with an injury-stricken defensive line, will only help improve the confidence of a secondary that is filled with sophomore athletes.
Harding's offensive line struggled to pick up what we call "junk" defense. A junk defense is when they throw the entire kitchen sink at an opposing offense, meaning they bring six athletes or more to rush after the quarterback. Due to the amount of pressure and stunts that were provided, Harding's offensive line and running backs struggled in the blitz pick up department. This is an area of focus moving forward along with assessing each individual on the line.
The Raiders must improve on all three sides of the football after a lackluster week one performance. Despite the loss, the good news is that there are nine more weeks of guaranteed football to be played. Each week the goal is for consistent growth, with the ultimate goal of playing your best football toward the second-half of the season. With young athletes on all sides of the ball, game experience is the best way to continue to build not only confidence but to understand how to play the game of football.
Another positive to build upon is that the Raiders took the opening second half drive all the way in for a score. After scoring to tie the game at 10 a piece, the Raiders defense forced a turnover, an interception by junior Bryan Powell (#3). Powell's interception that was returned to the 23-yard line, gave the Raiders offense prime opportunity to take the lead with either a field goal or touchdown. However, penalties stopped the drive and a punt ensued. Medina took the following drive all the way down the field 50+ yards and the rest is history. The point of this is to highlight the positive of being down 10-3 at halftime, tying the game, and then creating a turnover for your offense to have the ability to take the lead. The Raiders were in the game until late in the third quarter when the thin depth on both sides of the ball, and inexperience at several positions took over.
There is a strong winning tradition at Akron Buchtel that spans more than three decades. Former legendary Akron area football coach Tim Flossie led his 1987 and 1988 football teams to back-to-back Division II State Championships. Flossie passed away in July and his legacy continues. Enter second-year head coach Bryan Williams, who looks to continue the rich tradition and excellence at Akron Buchtel. Williams enters year two after being hired in late May of last year. The late hire prompted Williams to quickly find a staff, and build relationships with his players, all in a few short months before the season began. This year, Williams set his foundation and is looking to improve from the 4-6 record his team compiled in 2021, winning three straight games to end his first year at the helm.
Akron Buchtel began the 2022 season with a 21-35 loss to Hoover and look to lean on several returning starters which include three defensive lineman (Tinell Edwards, Sr., Marques Turner, Sr., and Davian Greenlee, Sr.) who are the heart and soul of the team. The defensive line will be an area that the Harding Raiders will need to work, giving quarterback Dalys Jett some more time to throw the pigskin or help junior running back Ryan Powell continue his 5.6 yards per carry average (13 attempts for 73 yards and 1 touchdown) versus Medina.
Buchtel returns several wide receivers and have an experienced secondary. The secondary plays man and cover 4. Look for press and off man-to-man coverage at times, with the goal of disrupting the timing of the Harding receivers, giving the stout Buchtel defensive line time to get to the quarterback. The Griffins will be without Thomas Cherry, their leader in the heart of the defense at linebacker who graduated in May. Edwards, the senior defensive lineman will look to be that leader and stout player for the Griffins in 2022 and has a plan and a will to get after Harding quarterback Dalys Jett early and often on Friday night.
The next piece to this preview will be the matchup to watch. This will be key for the Raiders and their success.
Matchup to Watch: Buchtel Defensive Line versus Harding Offensive Line
Last week, the matchup to watch was Medina's receivers versus Harding's secondary. The reason was the fact that Medina had multiple track athletes along with a returning starter in receiver Brennen Schramm, who lit up the scoreboard in 2021. Schramm continued his junior campaign's success by catching 11 receptions for 104 yards and two touchdowns in week one. This week's matchup to watch against Akron Buchtel will be Harding's offensive line and how they can protect and improve their play. Buchtel has three stout senior defensive linemen and are extremely big up front. Senior Tinell Edwards is 6-foot 275 pounds, and has multiple scholarship offers according to the Akron Buchtel Twitter account. The defensive line and preventing them from taking over the football game will be the goal for the Raiders on Friday night.
At a Glance:
Warren Harding Raiders
Head Coach: Steven Arnold
Years as HC: 11
Record Last Year: 5-6
League: All-American Conference
Defense: 3-4, 4-3
Aug. 19 at Medina - Loss - 10-33
Aug. 26 vs Buchtel
Sept. 2 vs Hudson
Sept. 9 at Massillon
Sept. 16 vs Ursuline
Sept. 23 at St. Vincent-St. Mary
Sept. 30 at Boardman
Oct. 7 vs Mooney
Oct. 14 at Chaney
Oct. 21 at Fitch
At a Glance:
Akron Buchtel Griffins
Head Coach: Bryan Williams
Record: 4-7 (4-6 in 2021, 0-1 in 2022)
Years as HC: 2
Record Last Year: 4-6
League: City Series
Defense: 4-2-5, Cover 4/ Man
Aug. 19 at Hoover - Loss - 21-35
Aug. 26 at Harding
Sept. 3 at Lake Catholic
Sept. 9 at St. Vincent- St. Mary
Sept. 17 (Sat) vs Cleveland Benedictine
Sept. 24 (Sat) vs Akron Ellet
Oct. 1 (Sat) vs Akron Garfield
Oct. 6 (Thurs) at Akron East
Oct. 13 (Thurs) at Akron North
Oct. 21 at Firestone
The Raiders will face off against Akron Buchtel on Friday, August 26th 7 p.m at Mollenkopf Stadium.