Upper Arlington hoping to fine-tune against Elder
Upper Arlington High School football coach Mike Golden knows his team faces a stern test when it plays host to Cincinnati Elder on Friday, Aug. 31.
The contest marks the first meeting between the teams since 1969.
"They're a real strong program," Golden said. "They have good size and decent speed. They're a good, strong, solid football team all the way around."
UA opened with a 43-20 win over visiting Walnut Ridge on Aug. 24. Even though the Golden Bears earned a decisive victory, the basic attitude around the locker room is that there's some polishing still needing to be done.
"We've still got a lot of things to work on after the first week," Golden said. "With the schedule we play, the closer we are to perfect, the better chance we have."
UA committed four turnovers (three fumbles and an interception) against Walnut Ridge, including a goal-line fumble after senior running back Gus Ackley returned the opening kickoff 79 yards to the Scots 10-yard line.
"There's a lot of things we still need to work on," Ackley said. "We got down to the 10 and fumbled on the 1. It's stuff like that, turnovers like that. We need to make sure that doesn't happen."
Elder was Division I state runner-up in 2008 and was a state semifinalist in 2009 but lost its final eight games last season to finish 2-8. However, Golden said it would be foolish to underestimate the Panthers.
"People in Columbus don't understand where Elder is playing," he said. "An eight-game losing streak is relative in high school football. They have a big-time schedule, probably as good a schedule as anybody in Ohio."
Elder, which is a member of the highly regarded Greater Catholic League, opened with a 34-21 win over Centerville on Aug. 24 as part of the Skyline Chili Crosstown Showdown.
Senior quarterback Josh Moore led the Panthers, passing for 223 yards and two touchdowns. Senior wide receiver Joe Ramstetter caught touchdown passes of 38 and 30 yards, and junior running back Chris Schroer rushed for 107 of the team's 205 yards on the ground and scored two touchdowns.
"They're a spread team," Golden said, "but they'll run it a lot. It'll be a challenge. We're going to see lots of schemes and we're going to need to be in the right places."
Elder's defense is led by senior end A.J. Burdine, senior linebackers Trevor Ginn and Marc McGeorge and senior back Nick Coon.
"They're very attack, very aggressive," Golden said. "There's lots of blitzing."
UA hopes to establish its running game against Elder, just as it did in its opener. Against Walnut Ridge, Ackley had 118 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 17 carries and three catches for 78 yards and a score and junior running back Chris Frey rushed for 114 yards on nine carries and caught an 11-yard touchdown pass with six seconds left in the first half to give the Bears a 23-6 lead.
In his first varsity start under center, senior quarterback Alex Husted completed seven of 13 passes for 130 yards and two touchdowns.
Ackley isn't going to let Elder's history intimidate him.
"Traditionally, they're good," he said. "But we can't change anything about how they play. We can only work on what we need to do."