Veteran Bears 'on same page'
Tired vocal cords and sore throats weren't part of the preseason routine for Upper Arlington High School football coach Mike Golden.
Fifteen returning starters from last year's 6-4 team paved the way for what the Golden Bears' ninth-year coach called perhaps the most "efficient" offseason and two-a-days in his tenure.
"They were efficient in the offseason and in practice, it's been the same story," said Golden, whose team opens at home Friday, Aug. 30, against Marion-Franklin. "All the guys are on the same page. They know the level where they have to be this time of year, and the level they'll have to play at once the season starts. We don't have to get after them all the time. I've definitely been saving my voice."
Division I prospects Chase Greenlee and Noah Spielman, and a linebacking corps led by Michigan State commit Chris Frey, highlight a team seeking to remain in the upper echelon of the OCC-Central Division and return to the playoffs after a one-year absence.
Frey, a 6-foot-3, 220-pound outside linebacker and halfback, led UA in tackles (136) and solo tackles (31) and made 3.5 sacks. He will be flanked outside by senior Graham Devine (6-1, 185), and inside by seniors Greenlee (6-3, 236) and Harrison Heath (6-2, 190) and junior Bo Brunton (6-3, 230).
The defensive line will be led by senior nose guard Spielman (6-0, 255), junior end Jackson Pfister (6-2, 220) and senior end Elliott Timmons (6-0, 210).
Spielman, the son of former Ohio State and NFL linebacker Chris Spielman, returns at center on an offensive line that also includes senior tackle Haakon Borstad (6-2, 225), Brunton at guard, junior tackle Quentin Wolfe (6-2, 245) and senior tight end Nate Jones (6-1, 215), among others.
"They moved me inside (on defense) and they'll move me around a lot," said Spielman, who started the previous two seasons at defensive end and is a two-year starter at center. "I'll do it to the best of my ability. As of now, it's going great."
The defensive backfield will include senior safeties Lewis Hughes (5-10, 175), senior cornerback Nick Blazek (6-1, 185) and junior cornerback Jack Pardi (6-1, 160).
Junior Kyle Kaparos -- who started at quarterback the final seven games of 2012 after 2013 graduate Alex Husted was sidelined with a concussion and Heath sustained a torn anterior cruciate ligament -- returns to lead an offense which Golden said likely will depend on the passing game. Kaparos was 43 of 102 passing for 701 yards, six touchdowns and six interceptions last year.
"He's passing the ball well, faking, running the ball and making great decisions downfield," Greenlee said. "He's blown my mind. He's improved a lot."
Receivers will include two-year starter Sam Wheeler (5-10, 185) and Jackson Finfrock (6-3, 180), both seniors, as well as Blazek and Hughes.
Golden's primary concern is at running back, where the Bears must replace 2013 graduate Gus Ackley's 1,337 yards and 16 touchdowns on 166 carries.
Ackley, who is playing football and lacrosse at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., also caught 14 passes for 257 yards and three touchdowns to earn first-team all-league and second-team all-district honors.
Frey will play halfback and Greenlee will be at fullback, but Golden doesn't want to rely too much on either. Frye rushed for 645 yards and 10 touchdowns on 67 carries and caught six passes for 89 yards and two touchdowns.
"We have to develop more backs," Golden said. "Considering how vital (Frey and Greenlee) are to the defense, I don't want either of them to have a bunch of carries. Chase will be a good back for short-yardage situations, but I can't see us considering him a workhorse."
UA closed last season with a flourish, winning three consecutive games to finish 5-2 in the OCC-Central Division. That stretch included a 23-14 upset of previously undefeated Dublin Coffman in the final week of the regular season and cost the Shamrocks an undisputed OCC-Central title.
"Just pulling that game out and the way we played gave us momentum through the winter and summer, (from) the winter lifting into right now," Frey said. "It changed our team, with all the momentum it brought. A lot of guys we weren't sure about last year stepped up big-time. It gave us an edge for this year."
The Bears' league opener is Sept. 20 at Thomas Worthington. UA has had only one losing season (2004) since 1963,
"I think we'll be an all-around better team. Hopefully we'll go 10-0, but you never know what can happen," Spielman said.
"We have to keep working hard and keep focused on that first game against Marion-Franklin."