Marion-Franklin should provide test for UA in opener
To hear Marion-Franklin High School football coach Brian Haffele and his Upper Arlington counterpart, Mike Golden, speak about it, their season-opening matchup is something of a match made in heaven.
The contest Friday, Aug. 30, at UA marks the first meeting between the teams in 41 years.
Having dropped to Division III this year under the new OHSAA realignment after establishing themselves as a Division II state power, the Red Devils are in search of the considerable computer points defeating a Division I opponent will bring.
"We understand what Upper Arlington is. Everybody knows Mike Golden's track record," said Haffele, whose team finished 11-2 last season, losing to New Albany 32-30 in the Division II, Region 7 final. "We know we're going to be in a battle with the Frey kid (Chris, a senior running back and linebacker) who's going to Michigan State and the Spielman kid (Noah, a senior center and nose tackle). It's going to be a challenge for us."
The Golden Bears, who ended last season with three consecutive wins to finish 6-4 overall, want to stockpile early points for a return to the playoffs after a one-year absence.
"You don't have to leave town to play big games like this, and we want to test ourselves against a team like Marion-Franklin," Golden said. "With the new 'super' Division I, you have to take risks to get to the playoffs."
Haffele is confident in his defense's ability to contain the Bears, who plan to feature a multi-faceted offense led by junior quarterback Kyle Kaparos, who was 43-for-102 passing for 701 yards, six touchdowns and six interceptions last season. UA's ground game will feature Frey and senior Chase Greenlee -- also a Division I prospect at linebacker -- and its receiving corps includes seniors Jackson Finfrock and Sam Wheeler.
Last season, Frye rushed for 645 yards and 10 touchdowns on 67 carries and caught six passes for 89 yards and two touchdowns.
"Kyle has taken some steps forward in running the team, but we have to do a better job running the ball and develop some depth there," Golden said.
Marion-Franklin returns eight starters in its 3-5-3 defense, led by senior linemen Austin Dent and Devante Collins, senior linebacker A.J. Tarvin and junior linebackers Thomas James and David Wellbourn.
"Last year when we played (Pickerington) Central, we didn't feel like our defense could stop them," Haffele said, referring to a 45-24 loss to the Tigers in week two.
"We knew we had to keep scoring. This year, our defense has been in all the big games and they're not intimidated anymore."
A playoff qualifier each of the past nine seasons, Marion-Franklin allowed an average of 16.8 points per game a year ago, giving up 20 or more points five times.