The Upper Arlington High School football team's wing-T offense is much more balanced this season, as the Golden Bears have rushed for 886 yards on 184 carries and passed for 818 yards on 47 completions and 88 attempts.

The Upper Arlington High School football team's wing-T offense is much more balanced this season, as the Golden Bears have rushed for 886 yards on 184 carries and passed for 818 yards on 47 completions and 88 attempts.

Nevertheless, when Hilliard Darby plays host Friday to UA in an OCC-Central Division game, Darby coach John Santagata said the top priority for the Panthers' 4-3 defense will be shutting down the Golden Bears' running game.

Last Friday, Darby hammered Central Crossing 75-7 to improve to 5-0 overall and 2-0 in the OCC-Central, and UA nipped Worthington Kilbourne 21-18 to improve to 4-1 overall and 2-0 in the OCC-Central.

"Our first concern every week is trying to stop the run, and that won't be any different this week," Santagata said. "Obviously, they're traditionally a very good running team, but they're doing a good job of mixing in a play-action passing game this year, so we'll have to be aware of that at all times, too. They run out of many formations and do a lot of trapping, so our defense will need to read its keys and defend against them accordingly. We've done a good job against the run, but Upper Arlington is big up front and they're as good as or better than any team we've played on both sides of the ball."

UA quarterback Jake Johns said the Golden Bears would prefer to maintain a balanced offensive attack against Darby, but they will be prepared to throw the ball more than usual if the Panthers overload the box with extra linebackers or backs.

Johns is 38-for-73 passing for 740 yards with six touchdowns and three interceptions.

His favorite targets are Damon Rothgeb (10 catches, 249 yards, two touchdowns), Frank Epitropoulos (nine catches, 170 yards, two touchdowns) and Johnny Mikes (six catches, 133 yards, two touchdowns).

Drew Karram has rushed for 398 yards and seven touchdowns on 58 carries, and Ryan McSheffery has rushed for 279 yards on 55 attempts.

Darby's defense is led by linebackers Matt Cyrus (25 tackles, three fumble recoveries), Cameron Kohl (37 tackles) and Jevaughan White (27 tackles), linemen Tae Bradley (16 tackles, three sacks) and Adam Hernandez (17 tackles, three sacks), and backs Caleb Day (19 tackles, two interceptions) and Chase Longwell (23 tackles, one interception).

"Last year, we only threw the ball in third-and-long situations to try to get first downs, but we're not as timid about throwing the ball on first and second down now," Johns said. "Our coaches would still prefer to run the ball, but we can pass more if we need to. In our first game (a 24-17 victory over Dresden Tri-Valley on Aug. 27), our running game wasn't there, and we threw for (290 yards and three touchdowns)."

UA coach Mike Golden said his 3-5 defense will rotate between multiple formations to try to confuse quarterback Matt Allen and make it difficult for the Panthers' spread option offense to establish its running game.

The Golden Bears' defense is led by linebackers Ben Grindle-deGraaf (43 tackles) and Eddie Miller (39 tackles), lineman Charlie Houk (33 tackles) and Epitropoulos (26 tackles, two interceptions) at free safety.

"Our defense needs to improve, especially against the run," Golden said. "Hilliard Darby has run the ball well and it's always good to get someone to do something they don't want to do. We run a 3-5 defense but we're going to change up our looks over the course of the game."

Although the Panthers have rushed for 1,329 yards on 236 carries, compared to passing for only 358 yards this season, Santagata said his offense will throw more this week to try to prevent the Golden Bears from overloading the line of scrimmage and clogging up running lanes.

Allen has rushed for 192 yards and eight touchdowns on 51 carries and is 12-for-24 passing for 330 yards, with five touchdowns and no interceptions.

Leading Darby in rushing are Dante Talley (27 carries for 299 yards), James Holt (248 yards on 50 carries) and Day (174 yards on 21 carries).

"Upper Arlington does a lot of different things, so our kids have to be aware of the look they're getting each play," Santagata said. "Obviously, we want to continue to run the football well, but I feel like we'll need to throw it, too, because they have a really strong defense."