The leading running back in the MAC is decidedly performing under the radar and that’s OK. His real mission is to turn around last year’s horrible record around…along with a few heads.
Delphos – You probably haven’t heard of him, or know the name of the Midwest Athletic Conference’s leading rusher and scorer.
You see, he doesn’t play for Coldwater, or Marion, or even Ft. Recovery or Minster, all state champions over the past two years.
You haven’t heard of him because teams that finish 1-9, like his Delphos St. John Blue Jays did in 2015, don’t get a lot of media attention, collectively or otherwise.
But to be sure, St. John senior Aaron Reindel is doing his part to make up for lost time, and that lost season from a year ago.
At 5’9” and 195 pounds, he doesn’t cast a big shadow in daylight. But under the Friday night lights of Midwest Athletic Conference football…that’s been another story. Through five games he’s rushed for 679 yards and 16 touchdowns. That’s in five games, mind you. Impressive, but hardly the first thing that Aaron Reindel is willing to talk about.
When we first saw him, two weeks ago in the Blue Jays’ 19-18 win over Versailles, our writer for that game post scripted this note to his game story. “You’ve got to go see Aaron Reindel,” said Joe Neves. “He’s not very big, but man does he play big.”
“He has been big for us,” St. John coach Todd Schulte said last week, prior to the Blue Jays’ game with Anna. “In fact, he can do just about anything you ask him to do on the football field. Last year when we were beat up physically we had him taking some direct snaps. Everybody knew he was getting the ball and he still got his yards. If we need him on defense he’s one of our best defensive backs. He plays so much, and so hard, that we try to rest him on defense, but if there’s a critical play it’s hard to not have him out there. That’s how important he is to our team.”
Last year, or rather their turnaround from last year, is the story that best defines what’s thus far been a 3-2 start for the 2016 Blue Jays. It’s true that Reindel is piling up yards and touchdowns, but he’d rather talk about his team and the commitment made to come back from an embarrassing record. 1-9, understand, is downright regrettable, forgettable, and unacceptable for a program that’s won all those state championships (6)!
“A lot us of didn’t take the 1-9 record very well,” says Reindel. “A lot of us were seniors coming back this year and we didn’t want to go out that way. We got together, we had a great summer in the weight room, we created a lot of unity, and we were determined to turn things around.”
A fact not lost upon their coach.
“You could see it from day one after the season,” says Schulte. “When they all got together to lift on that first day together you could tell they were committed to have a better year.”
And hard work, they say, pays dividends. After a 1-point loss to Lima Bath on opening night (28-27), the Blue Jays ripped off consecutive wins over LCC (35-7), Minster (46-30) and Versailles (19-18) before falling to Anna (42-21) last week.
“We just didn’t play well,” says Reindel of the Anna game. “We had three turnovers in the first quarter and that’s no way to start.”
He’s lucky to have finished that game, actually. Carted off the field after his first touch of the football, most did not expect him to return. Two series later he was standing on the sidelines tapping Schulte on the shoulder to go back in the game.
“Just a high ankle sprain,” he adds. “A little tape, and a little adrenalin, and I was ready to go.”
And like every good running back, he’s quick to acknowledge the people in front of him, his linemen, who are creating the space in which he operates.
“Those guys have been great,” he assures. “We had three seniors coming back and a junior and they’ve played great. I couldn’t do what I do without them. And our offense around the goal line has given me a lot of opportunities.”
Quick enough to run past would-be tacklers, he’s also strong enough at 195 pounds to run over, or through them, as well.
“I’d rather deliver the blow than receive it,” he says with a chuckle.
Five games and 700 yards does not a season make, of course. And with their 3-2 record the Blue Jays have their sights set on a return to the post-season playoffs. Ranked 7th this week in Division VII, Region 26, New Bremen, Ft. Recovery, St. Henry, Parkway and Coldwater stands between them and their achieving that goal…and an even better end to a satisfying season of redemption.
“We all got stronger over the summer,” adds Aaron, who plans on studying business next year at UC or Bowling Green. “In the weight room. You have to be strong to play football. And we got stronger from being together, working together, and coming together. We’re not the same team we were last year.”
Testimony to what one summer can do!