Defense is not a concern for coach Joel Cutler as his Upper Arlington High School football team prepares for a Friday, Aug. 31, game at Findlay, but he hopes the offense he saw at the end of a season-opening loss to Reynoldsburg comes through early and often this week.
After eight of UA's first nine possessions ended in punts Aug. 24 and the Golden Bears were held to 104 yards of offense through three quarters, they gained 103 yards on their final two drives, the first of which resulted in a touchdown to get them within three points.
The other drive ended with a game-clinching interception as host UA fell 17-14.
"We had some kids who tackled very well in space, got off blocks and hustled," Cutler said. "A lot of guys had their motors running and got to the football. We tried our best to make Reynoldsburg one-dimensional and stop the run. They still got chunks of yards a few times, but we did well that way. We gave ourselves a chance."
Quarterback Sammy Sass threw a 21-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Steven Bair late in the first quarter and scored on a 2-yard run with 4 minutes, 30 seconds left.
UA began its final drive at its own 19. Sass hit Bair for a 39-yard pass to put the Bears at the Reynoldsburg 49, but was intercepted on the next play by cornerback Isaiah Thomas, the same defender who had been in coverage for Bair's long catch.
Raiders receiver Mershawn Rice, a Purdue commit, caught touchdown passes of 53 and 57 yards and Cocy Goff made the game-winning 28-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter.
The contest was the first of four consecutive season-opening meetings for UA and Reynoldsburg.
According to Cutler, the Bears' trip to Findlay is a one-year deal.
The Trojans are coming off a season-opening 34-28 overtime loss at Hilliard Bradley on Aug. 24. UA and Findlay played every year from 2001-09 but have not met since.
"Both of us needed a game and we found ourselves in the same boat. We used to play Findlay quite a bit," Cutler said. "For us right now, with any great team or good team, that biggest growth takes place between Week 1 and Week 2. For us, we have to worry about and fix us. We have to eliminate a lot of mistakes -- formationally, with penalties, things that are controllable. We've done a good job of taking care of the football, but there are still a lot of things to fix."
Findlay is seeking its second playoff appearance in three years.
Against Bradley, quarterback Tanner Rickle completed 11 of 23 passes for 130 yards and rushed for 64 yards and three touchdowns on 21 carries. Four receivers caught at least two passes.