Gahanna Lincoln High School football coach John Snoad expects to encounter a "hungry" opponent Friday when his team plays at Upper Arlington in a matchup featuring two Division I playoff qualifiers from the last three seasons.

Gahanna Lincoln High School football coach John Snoad expects to encounter a "hungry" opponent Friday when his team plays at Upper Arlington in a matchup featuring two Division I playoff qualifiers from the last three seasons.

The Lions rolled to a 52-0 win over Mifflin in their opener -- Snoad's coaching debut at Gahanna after spending the last 14 seasons at Napoleon -- last Friday, but the Golden Bears are coming off a 23-6 loss to Pickerington Central the same day.

"They expect big things this season and I'm sure they see this as a pivotal game for them to meet their expectations," Snoad said. "They'll have their ears pinned back and be hungry for victory. We're working hard to establish ourselves. We see the game as pivotal for us as well."

This season marks the first time since 2005 that UA has opened with a loss. It made the playoffs that season. But the last two times the Bears opened 0-2 -- 2001 and 2004 -- they missed the playoffs.

Still, UA coach Mike Golden doesn't view the game as a must-win given the strength of his team's schedule, nor he is overly concerned about his players' psyche after the loss to Central.

"They know that we have every opportunity to go 9-1," Golden said. "They understand what it's all about. They understand that you're not going to win all the big games. You just have to move on, and that's what we're doing. They're fine."

Golden will be looking for improved play from his team, particularly in terms of avoiding turnovers. The Bears turned the ball over five times against Central, including four interceptions thrown by quarterback John Townsley in his first start.

"All of their points came off our turnovers," Golden said. "Their defense is very aggressive. Some of (the turnovers) you have to give them credit, but some were unforced. We've got to eliminate the mental mistakes.

"We grabbed John after the game and talked with him. It's a growing-up process and he understands that. He'll be fine."

Given that Townsley isn't much of a threat to run in the Bears' wing-T offense, Golden gave running back Alex Drake some playing time at quarterback against Central. Drake, who completed all three pass attempts for 46 yards against the Tigers, is expected to see time at quarterback against Gahanna as well.

"That lets us get Alex, (Tommy Farwick) and (Isaac Wildermuth) on the field at the same time," Golden said of his top three running backs, who combined to rush for more than 2,300 yards last season and combined for 120 against Central.

UA's offense, particularly its running game, concerns Snoad.

"They run multiple offenses, much like ourselves, which gives our defense a lot to worry about," he said.

Two key players who sat out the game against Central because of injury -- center and defensive lineman Kacy Yuhas and linebacker and tight end Chris Cennamo -- are expected to miss the game against the Lions.

"They're making some improvement, but I don't believe they'll play," Golden said.

Gahanna dominated Mifflin in all facets, but Snoad firmly believes that his team is capable of playing even better.

"We're confident with the fact that we came out and established ourselves early, but we're nowhere near where we want to be," he said. "We're far from perfect. There's plenty to work on."

Gahanna's defense, led by cornerback Ryan Ballenger, noseguard Joe Wills and linebackers Ryan Larimer and Nick Snoad, limited Mifflin to 91 yards and forced three turnovers in the first half to help the Lions build a 38-0 lead by halftime.

The Lions had 301 total yards against the Punchers, including 241 on the ground. Running back Earl Cunningham ran for 85 yards and scored three touchdowns.

"Gahanna presents challenges," Golden said. "They have a really good tailback (Cunningham), a real good quarterback (Cord McCallister) and a real nice receiver (Brandon Magbagbeola), and they've got good speed. We have to play good, solid defense."

Though UA leads the series 26-9, Gahanna has won two of the last three meetings, and each of the last three matchups has been decided by six or fewer points, with the Bears winning 24-21 in overtime last season and the Lions winning 21-19 in 2005 and 20-14 in 2004.

Upper Arlington's Mark Crawford (top) and Noah Krimm combine to bring down Pickerington Central's Tyler Hammond last Friday. The Golden Bears, who lost to the Tigers 23-6, will play host Friday to Gahanna.

Last Friday

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When: 7:30 p.m. Friday

Last meeting: 2007, UA 24-21 (OT)

Gahanna to date: Defeated Mifflin 52-0

Top Lions: Ryan Ballenger, Earl Cunningham, Ryan Larimer, Brandon Magbagbeola, Taylor Prusz, Nick Snoad, Kyle Strait and Joe Wills

Of note: The Golden Bears lead the series 26-9.