A painful final minute spelled the end of the Upper Arlington High School football team's season -- and the end of an era in program history.
The Golden Bears lost to visiting Dublin Coffman 17-14 on Nov. 1 to finish 5-5 overall and 4-3 in the OCC-Central Division. The loss ended any hope UA had of making the playoffs and was the swan song for coach Mike Golden, who announced after the game that he is retiring after nine seasons at UA and 25 seasons overall as a head coach.
Golden notified school administrators of his intention to retire before the start of the season, but didn't tell his seniors until last week.
"Yep, this is it. That's all for me," Golden said. "I've been talked into coming back the last few years. I enjoy the kids so much. I love it, but it's time. That's all."
Golden compiled a 203-78 record through stints at Watterson (1989-2002), New Albany (2004) and UA. He won the 2002 Division III state championship with Watterson, guided New Albany to that program's first postseason appearance and a Division IV regional runner-up finish and took the Bears to the playoffs five times (2005-08, 2011).
This season, UA finished 22nd in the Division I, Region 2 computer ratings, with the top 16 teams qualifying for the postseason.
"This man is a hall-of-fame coach as far as I'm concerned," said Coffman coach Mark Crabtree, who spent several minutes talking to Golden after the regular-season finale. "They don't come much better than him. Upper Arlington is always a well-coached and talented team, and that credit goes to Mike."
UA had won three of its previous four games before playing Coffman to put itself in playoff contention, but the Bears fell behind the Shamrocks 10-0 within the first six minutes on a 28-yard field goal by John McGue and a 16-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Ben Beckett to Kyle Marcinick. The touchdown was set up by a UA fumble on the kickoff return following the field goal. Coffman scored on the next play.
The Bears' defense stiffened, however, holding Coffman to only 83 total yards over the final three quarters to keep UA in the game. The Bears scored early in the second quarter on a 3-yard run by junior quarterback Kyle Kaparos and took a 14-10 lead in the third quarter on a 15-yard touchdown run by senior running back Chris Frey.
With the game on the line, Coffman came through on its final drive. Starting at their own 40-yard line with 4 minutes, 22 seconds remaining, the Shamrocks entered UA territory with a 25-yard pass from Beckett to running back Dre Kendrick. Six plays later, Kendrick found a seam outside and scored on a 13-yard run with 57 seconds left.
"They made some big pass plays when they really needed them," Golden said. "I thought we did a really good job defending what they do best. Give them credit. They ran a few late screens that really caught us off guard. That's coaching. They did a great job. I was proud of our kids who played so hard, too."