The Upper Arlington High School football team's lineup has been ravaged by injuries to key players heading into an OCC-Central Division game Friday at home against Hilliard Darby.
After losing offensive tackle Peter Scriven (sprained knee) and tight end Will Jones (ACL) in the second game of the season and losing center/defensive end J.J. Blevins (sprained knee) a week later, the Golden Bears lost two more starters to injuries last week.
During Upper Arlington's 22-21 win over Worthington Kilbourne last Friday, quarterback Kyle Cassady broke his collarbone and is expected to miss most of the rest of the regular season.
Two days earlier, wide receiver/free safety Mark McClain injured a leg in practice and didn't play against Kilbourne. Scriven is expected to return against Darby, but the return of Blevins and McClain is doubtful and Jones is out for the season.
Despite those losses, UA coach Mike Golden said his wing-T offense isn't going to change its strategy against Darby's 4-3 defense.
Jake Johns took over at quarterback with his team leading 7-5 at the start of the second half last Friday and went 4-for-8 for 74 yards, including the winning 48-yard touchdown pass to running back Ryan McSheffery with 42 seconds left.
McSheffery also rushed for 141 yards, including a 70-yard touchdown, on 15 carries, as UA improved to 2-3 overall and 1-1 in the OCC-Central. Running back Drew Karram is UA's leading rusher with more than 300 yards.
"We're going to continue to run our offense," Golden said. "Obviously, we have to run the ball and protect our quarterback, and we'll give Jake a chance to throw the ball, too. (Johns) did a great job last Friday. He showed a lot of poise and made some key plays for us. Hilliard Darby's defense has a good front four and they do a nice job of stopping the run, so we'll have to mix it up a little bit against them."
Darby -- which is 0-1 in the OCC-Central --pounded Hilliard Bradley 49-7 last Friday to improve to 3-1 overall.
The Panthers limited the Jaguars to 35 rushing yards. Leading Darby in tackles are linebacker Dennis Coyne (31), linebacker Matt Keller (28), end Nate Bucci (21), linebacker Eric Hajjar (17) and back Alex Day (16).
Matt Cyrus (FB/LB) said the Panthers will load the box to try to stuff UA's running game and force Johns to try to throw.
When UA is forced to throw, ends Nate Bucci (1.5 sacks) and Harron Quadri (3.5 sacks) will blitz Johns from the edges.
"New guys always have the jitters in big games like this, so we'll put pressure on their quarterback and hopefully he'll crack under it," Cyrus said. "Nate Bucci has been doing a great job of getting into the backfield and rushing quarterbacks all season."
Bolstered by the return of right tackle Evan Falardeau, a third-year starter who missed Darby's first three games with a concussion, the Panthers ran for 322 yards on 41 carries last Friday. Cyrus has 441 yards and10 touchdowns on72 carries, and John Casey has rushed for219 yards andtwo scores on 18 carries.
Quarterback Matt Allen, who has completed29 of51 passes for411 yards andfour touchdowns, said the Panthers' multiple-slotback offense will attempt to establish its running game early.
"When we run the ball well, it opens our play-action passing and sweeps," Allen said. "We want to throw the ball, too, but our first goal is to establish our running game."
Golden acknowledged thathis 3-5 defense will need to stop Cyrus from making big runs up the middle, but he said the Golden Bears will need to make sure they don't overlook any of Darby's other offensive weapons.
UA's defense is led by linebackers Daniel Botomogno and Jack Varanese, strong safety Phil Jaskot and lineman Brady Siddall. The Bears allow 26.8 points per game.
"They attack a lot of areas of the field, so we have to play good defense all over," Golden said. "(Cyrus) is really good, but they've got some kids who can run it outside and make catches, so we've got to get everything covered."
•When: 7:30 p.m. Friday
•Last meeting: 2008, Upper Arlington 24-14
•Darby (3-1, 0-1 in OCC-Central) to date: Game vs. Toledo Libbey canceled; defeated Dublin Jerome 28-25; def. Newark 33-0; lost to Worthington Kilbourne 34-20; def. Hilliard Bradley 49-7
•Upper Arlington (2-3, 1-1 in OCC-Central) to date: Lost to Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas 52-7; def. Beechcroft 28-20; lost to Findlay 24-7; lost to Thomas Worthington 17-9; def. Worthington Kilbourne 22-21
•Top Panthers: Matt Allen (QB/DB), Nate Bucci (DE), John Casey (RB), Dennis Coyne (LB), Matt Cyrus (RB/LB), Evan Falardeau (OL/DL), Matt Keller (LB), Haroon Quadri (DE) and Elijah Tavera (RB/DB)
•Top Bears: Daniel Botomogno (FB/LB), Phil Jaskot (SS), Jake Johns (QB), Drew Karram (RB), Ryan McSheffery(RB),Brady Siddall (DL), Jack Varanese (LB) and Mac Wilcox (WR)