The Upper Arlington High School football team is back in the playoffs.
The Golden Bears, who failed to qualify the last two seasons, clinched a Division I, Region 3 playoff spot with a 19-13 victory over visiting Dublin Coffman on Friday, Oct. 28.
UA entered the game ranked eighth in Region 3.
“It's real special for us. No one here has ever been to the playoffs,” said UA wide receiver Frank Epitropoulos, whose team finished the regular season 8-2 overall and 6-1 in the OCC-Central Division. “We had a (playoff) drought for a little bit, but we finally did it.”
The Bears made it back by overcoming a slow first half against Coffman and establishing a strong ground game. UA finished with 297 yards rushing on 41 carries, but it was a 67-yard run by Francis Wilamosky that put Coffman away.
Faced with a fouth-and-1 from its 23-yard line and leading 19-13 with 2 minutes, 30 second left in the game, UA elected to go for it. Wilamosky found room on the right side of the line and ran down to Coffman's 10-yard line. Coffman, which didn't have a timeout, couldn't stop the clock.
The Shamrocks, which fell to 8-2 and 5-2, entered the game as third in the region, already having clinched a playoff berth.
“I just felt like they weren't stopping us running,” UA coach Mike Golden said. “Rather than give them a chance, because they're so good on offense, we didn't feel comfortable with a six-point lead.”
UA trailed 10-0 at the half, but its running game came alive in the second half. The Golden Bears amassed 197 of their 297 yards on the ground after intermission.
Epitropoulos scored on a 36-yard touchdown catch on UA's first possession of the second half, making two Coffman defenders miss at the 20-yard line before running for the score to make it 10-6 with 10:36 left in the third quarter.
On its next possession, UA's Gus Ackley followed a 17-yard run with a 13-yard touchdown run to give UA a 12-10 lead with 6:52 left in the third quarter. Ackley finished with 12 carries for 120 yards and a touchdown.
Coffman's three third-quarter possessions resulted in an interception and two three-and-outs. The interception was the second of three by UA's Alex Husted. Coffman quarterback James Walsh was 12 of 17 for 171 yards with a touchdown and three interceptions.
“They made some adjustments at halftime and really came out and played more physical,” Coffman coach Mark Crabtree said. “We're going to have to sit down and look at the film to see what happened, especially that third quarter.”
UA led 19-10 with 10:42 left in the game after Jared Drake converted a quarterback sneak for a touchdown from Coffman's 2-yard line.
Coffman answered the scored with a 17-play 74-yard drive that culminated with a 22-yard field goal by Grant Coffman.
Coffman gave the Shamrocks a 10-0 lead after making a 25-yard field goal with 3:59 left in the second quarter. The kick capped a 13-play 58 yard drive that included a 17-yard completion from Walsh to James Trabue on fourth-and-10 at UA's 30-yard line.
The Shamrocks opened the scoring with a 3-yard touchdown run by Bilal Williamson with 3:59 left in the first quarter.
Both teams entered the game with a shot at earning a share of the OCC-Central title, but needed Hilliard Darby to beat division leader Hilliard Davidson. Davidson won 21-0 to finish first in the OCC-Central at 7-0.
DUBLIN COFFMAN 7 3 0 3 – 13
UPPER ARLINGTON 0 0 12 0 – 19
DC – Williamson 3 run (Coffman kick)
DC – Coffman 25 FG
UA – Epitropoulos 36 pass from Smith (kick missed)
UA – Ackley 13 run (kick missed)
UA – Drake 1 run (Pesavento kick)
DC – Coffman 22 FG