The Upper Arlington High School football team knows it still has many strides to make, but at least Sept. 14 erased the sting of consecutive blowout losses.
Gus Ackley ran for 144 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries, and the injury-riddled Golden Bears returned two interceptions for touchdowns in a 42-7 victory over visiting Thomas Worthington in the OCC-Central Division opener for both teams.
An opportunistic defense carried Upper Arlington (2-2, 1-0), which started 18 juniors as well as sophomore Kyle Kaparos at quarterback. The Bears forced five turnovers, three interceptions and two fumbles against Thomas (0-4, 0-1).
Sam Wheeler intercepted Cardinals quarterback Danny Gordon twice, turning the first into a 40-yard touchdown return in the second quarter. Jack Mueller also brought back an interception 22 yards for a score late in the first quarter — one play after Chase Greenlee’s 8-yard touchdown run had given UA a 7-0 lead.
“We came out with a purpose and a focus,” UA coach Mike Golden said. “We were very worried about this game because of the last two weeks (45-7 losses to both Cincinnati Elder and Gahanna). We just tried to get off the edge and tried not to let (Gordon) get upfield too fast because he’s really quick. I thought we did a good job of containing him.”
Ackley’s 95-yard touchdown run -- the longest run from scrimmage in UA history -- made it 21-0 early in the second. Wheeler’s interception came on the Cardinals’ first play after the touchdown, then Chris Frey scored from 23 yards for a 35-0 lead.
“We’ve worked hard all week on keeping our intensity up and getting after it,” said Greenlee, who also recovered a fumble in the third quarter. “We decided to pressure a lot more on defense this week, catch other teams off guard. It really worked out.”
Ackley scored from 2 yards with 18 seconds left in the third to make it 42-0.
Gordon threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to Jeryl Smallwood with 4:34 left to break the shutout.
“Mistakes and big plays just have hurt us all year,” said Thomas coach Scott Gordon, whose team outgained UA in total yardage 253-220. “We can’t put two halves together. Against a good football team like Upper Arlington, you can’t give them anything. They capitalized on the mistakes we made.”
UA--Greenlee 8 run (Baskent kick)
UA--Mueller 22 interception return (Baskent kick)
UA--Ackley 95 run (Baskent kick)
UA--Wheeler 40 interception return (Baskent kick)
UA--Frey 23 run (Baskent kick)
UA--Ackley 2 run (Baskent kick)
TW--Smallwood 25 pass from Gordon (Frazier kick)