According to at least one member of the Upper Arlington High School football team, the roots of the Golden Bears' rivalry with Hilliard Darby go beyond the schools' proximity and the programs' perennial success.

According to at least one member of the Upper Arlington High School football team, the roots of the Golden Bears' rivalry with Hilliard Darby go beyond the schools' proximity and the programs' perennial success.

"Both of us love to run the football," UA linebacker Eddie Miller said. "It's run-at-you football. It's a test to see who's tougher. They're going to come right at us."

The Bears play host to the Panthers in a key OCC-Central Division game on Friday, Sept. 30.

UA improved to 4-1 overall and 2-0 in the OCC-Central with a 56-21 win over Worthington Kilbourne on Sept. 23. That same night, Darby shut out Central Crossing 42-0 to improve to 5-0 and 2-0.

UA, which has 599 wins in its 86-year history, is seeking its first 5-1 start since 2008, when it lost its opener but won its next 10 games before losing to Pickerington Central 24-16 in a Division I regional semifinal. Darby, which defeated the Bears 21-6 last year, is 5-0 for the second consecutive year.

UA rushed for 275 yards against Kilbourne and, on the season, has 979 yards rushing and 604 passing. Gus Ackley (341 yards and five touchdowns on 55 rushes), Ryan McSheffery (335 yards and three touchdowns on 65 carries) and Francis Wilamosky (257 yards and two touchdowns on 48 carries) are the Bears' primary ground threats, and Zach Powers (eight receptions for 90 yards and two touchdowns) and Garrett Powers (nine catches for 138 yards and two touchdowns) have been quarterback David Smith's main targets.

But UA coach Mike Golden's primary concern is how his defense will fare against Darby's potent rushing game.

"It was nice to play an option, midline team (in Kilbourne) before Darby," he said. "Darby does a little more out of it and, (with) respect to Kilbourne, they are a bit better than Kilbourne. It's going to be a challenge. We're going to have a good week of practice and play our best football to be competitive against them."

Darby amassed 401 total yards against Central Crossing and allowed only 61. The Panthers have outscored their opponents 198-39, but those opponents - Whetstone, Dublin Jerome, Newark, Kilbourne and Central Crossing - are a combined 2-23.

Dante Talley rushed for 101 yards and two touchdowns against Central Crossing, and Hayden Van Kirk has almost 500 yards rushing on the season, including 211 in a 35-7 win over Kilbourne on Sept. 16.

"The schedule is going to get a lot tougher this week. It's important that we're at a point that we are able to execute properly," Darby coach John Santagata said. "It's important we go out and do our jobs, our responsibilities, to maximize what we're able to do.

"I know they are a well-coached football team. We always start there, 'Are they well-coached?' And they are. Coach Golden has been around and has been very successful at Upper Arlington and other places. Do they have the talent level? They definitely do. They are a well-coached team with athletes and that's why they're sitting where they are right now."

It's unclear whether the Bears will have standout receiver Frank Epitropoulos, an Ohio State commitment, this week. He has missed the past three games with a hand injury.

"I talked to him (Sept. 23) and he's going to try to come back," Miller said. "We'd love to have him back, but we'd rather have him back at 100-percent healthy than 70 percent. We could definitely use him."