Running backs Tony Harvard and Chris Frey will be the focus of their opposing defenses when the Thomas Worthington High School football team plays host to Upper Arlington on Friday, Sept. 20, in the opening week of OCC-Central Division play.
"This game will be determined by who wins the line of scrimmage," Golden Bears coach Mike Golden said. "Although Thomas has a real good quarterback (Danny Gordon), they are running the ball more this season. We want to force them to be one-dimensional on offense and we want to control the line to allow our offense to be productive."
Frey rushed for 186 yards and three touchdowns on 23 carries as UA beat Gahanna 31-7 on Sept. 13 to improve to 1-2. The Bears totaled 277 yards rushing and four touchdowns on 42 carries against the Lions.
"Chris Frey is a very good running back and an absolute stud at outside linebacker, which is why he's one of the best prospects in all of central Ohio," Cardinals coach Scott Gordon said. "He has (verbally) committed to Michigan State and we're going to have to commit to stopping him on both sides of the ball."
Harvard rushed for 119 yards and three touchdowns as Thomas defeated Eastmoor Academy 35-12 on Sept. 13 to improve to 2-1. The Cardinals bounced back from a 44-7 loss to Worthington Kilbourne on Sept. 6.
"I love their running back," Golden said of Harvard. "He's very good and smooth. He slips and slides and he never gives you a great angle to tackle. Even his 4- and 5-yard runs are things of beauty."
UA, which limited Gahanna to just 55 yards rushing on 27 carries and 158 total yards, has two other two-way players who are Division I college prospects in Chris Greenlee and Noah Spielman. Greenlee is a fullback and inside linebacker and Spielman starts at center and on the defensive line.
"Those two guys have been playing some real good football on both sides of the ball," Golden said. "Greenlee is hitting hard from both positions and he's getting to the ball very well defensively. Spielman is blocking extremely well and has just been disruptive at nose guard."
The Cardinals entered the week at full strength on the lines.
"We had an injury on the defensive line before the Kilbourne game, so we moved Esai Slaughter from right guard to the defensive front and that changed the flow on both lines," coach Gordon said. "We had our regular linemen in place for the Eastmoor game. (Center) James Peters was sick all week and didn't practice, but he played well against Eastmoor.
"We've got to sustain blocks, protect the ball and win the field-position battle (against UA). Ben Frazier has done an outstanding job punting and kicking off and I know UA has a good kicker, too, but it could be one of those types of games."
UA has won the past three meetings with Thomas and has dominated the series, which started in 1926. The Bears are 47-10-1 against the Cardinals and have outscored them 1,583-446.