Having won nine consecutive games, the Upper Arlington High School football team may be playing as well as any team in central Ohio heading into the playoffs.

But coach Mike Golden is quick to point out that success in the regular season does not guarantee success in the postseason. He and his coaching staff will make sure the Golden Bears are focused on what they need to do to be successful when they play host to Marysville in the first round of the Division I, Region 3 playoffs at 7 p.m. Saturday.

UA, which was eighth in the state poll last week, improved to 9-1 overall and captured the OCC-Central Division championship at 7-0 with a 7-6 win over Dublin Coffman last Friday. The same day, Marysville posted its fourth
victory in five games by defeating Dublin Scioto 13-10 to improve to 7-3.

The Bears are seeded second and the Monarchs are the seventh seed.

"We have a lot of momentum, but the key is to keep the kids focused on improving," Golden said. "We feel like we're getting better, but there's still work to be done."

UA qualified for the playoffs for the fourth consecutive year. Marysville is making its first playoff appearance since 2001 when it was in Division II. The Monarchs moved up to Division I in 2005.

"It's been awhile since we've been in the playoffs," Monarchs coach Jeff Gafford said. "The kids are excited."

Gafford said UA represents a challenge for his team, both offensively and defensively. The Bears are averaging 31.8 points per game behind their high-powered wing-T offense, which features running backs Tommy Farwick,
Alex Drake and Isaac Wildermuth. The trio has rushed for a combined 2,760 yards and 27 touchdowns, with Farwick leading the way with 1,055 yards.

Marysville's defense, which is allowing an average of 16.8 points per game and has posted two shutouts, is led by linebackers Paul Devine and Brent Couchman and defensive backs Jon Fridley and Chris Guisinger.

"We really haven't faced a team like (UA)," Gafford said. "Many teams run the spread now, but they're a power-running team. They have three really good running backs and they have an accurate passing game. That
makes them tough to defend.

"We just can't get beat at the line of scrimmage. If they're in second-and-2 or second-and-4 all night, we're going to lose the game. I think that will decide the game. The bottom line is, if you can't stop the run, you're not going to win the ballgame."

The Bears are allowing an average of 12 points per game. Linebacker Mark Crawford, who leads the team with 93 tackles, missed the last two games with a knee injury but is expected to play Saturday, Golden said.

Other key players on defense include linebacker Wade D'Andrea, free safety Anthony Finissi, cornerback Noah Krimm and linemen Daniel Botomogno and Nat Kell. Krimm leads the team with six interceptions and Kell has
a team-high four sacks.

"They show you multiple fronts on defense," Gafford said. "They're very aggressive running to the ball and they tackle real well."

UA's defense will be looking to contain Marysville's option offense, which is averaging 26.4 points per game. Quarterback Luke Fleming leads the offense, having completed 45 of 88 passes for 713 yards with eight
touchdowns and four interceptions and having rushed for 761 yards and eight touchdowns on 152 carries.

Fullback Nathan Weeks leads the Monarchs with 924 yards rushing and 12 touchdowns on 161 carries and wide receiver Chris Coburn has a team-high 15 receptions for 245 yards and a touchdown.

"Having played (Worthington) Kilbourne, we've played an option team," Golden said. "They run the same basic offense as Kilbourne. (Hilliard) Davidson runs a similar offense, too, so, in a sense, we're prepared because
we've seen (the option) before. But we have to stop it. Their quarterback (Fleming) shows a lot of poise for his age, being a sophomore, and they have a big fullback (Weeks) who is good on the dive."

Golden believes being aggressive on defense is the key to containing an option offense.
"A lot of it is assignment football, but you have to carry out your assignment aggressively," he said. "Aggressive football can overcome some mistakes. It covers up some mistakes, quite honestly."
Marysville defeated UA 20-0 in 1975 in the only other meeting between the programs.