Neither the Hilliard Darby nor Upper Arlington high school football teams will be lacking motivation Friday when the Panthers play host to the Golden Bears in an OCC-Central Division contest.
The Golden Bears are eager to redeem themselves after losing twice at Darby a year agoÊ-- 22-7 during the regular season and a 35-10 in the first round of the Division I playoffs.
Upper Arlington beat Worthington Kilbourne 34-9 last Friday to improve to 4-1 overall and 2-0 in the OCC-Central.
"We're a little bitter because we lost to them twice and we've got to go play there again," UA running back Tommy Farwick said. "We're definitely looking forward to getting another shot at Hilliard Darby because of what happened last year. But we definitely can't underestimate them because they're good."
The Panthers are looking to stay alive in the OCC-Central title race and prove they can beat a top-notch opponent. Darby routed Central Crossing 45-7 last Friday to improve to 4-1 overall and 1-1 in the OCC-Central, but the four teams they've defeated had a combined record of 5-15.
"After we lost to Worthington Kilbourne (28-21 on Sept. 12), coach (John) Santagata told us that every game is a must-win from here on out if we're going to compete for our conference championship," Darby quarterback Brandon Bargar said. "UA really took it to Worthington Kilbourne last Friday, and that fired us up because we see this game as a chance to redeem ourselves for the way we played against Worthington Kilbourne. We don't want to fall two games behind UA in the OCC. This is definitely our biggest game of the season."
The Golden Bears' wing-T offense features three running backs in Alex Drake (424 yards, 3 touchdowns on 70 carries), Farwick (501 yards, 5 touchdowns on 67 carries) and Isaac Wildermuth (589 yards, 8 touchdowns on 54 carries). Quarterback John Townsley is 24-for-44 passing for 366 yards and two touchdowns. Drake also takes snaps at quarterback.
UA's offense has been bolstered by the return of center Kacy Yuhas, who played his first full game of the season last Friday after suffering a sprained medial collateral ligament in his right knee during a scrimmage against DeSales on Aug. 15.
Santagata said his 4-3 defense will load the box in an effort to bottle up all three running backs and outnumber the Golden Bears at the point of attack.
"We've got to contain their running backs by winning the line of scrimmage or they'll continue to drive us down the field all game," Santagata said.
UA coach Mike Golden said the Golden Bears will continue to run the ball regardless of how many linebackers and backs Darby brings to the line of scrimmage.
Darby's defense is led by linebackers Blake Fraley and Zach Ison and safeties Nick Martin and Harrison Reed.
"We have to throw effectively at times, but we're going to stick with what we do best," Golden said. "We've got three pretty good running backs and we're going to try to establish our running game. Darby runs to the ball well, so we'll need to carry out our play fakes very well."
The Golden Bears are focusing their defensive plan around pressuring Bargar and keeping him bottled up in the pocket. Bargar has 548 yards and 14 touchdowns on 51 carries and is 47-for-72 passing with five touchdowns. His favorite targets are receivers Tyler MacIntosh (27 receptions, 333 yards, 2 touchdowns) and Jordan Rispress (11 catches, 175 yards, 1 touchdown). Matt Cyrus (363 yards, 3 touchdowns on 58 carries) and Iko Bako (189 yards, 2 touchdowns on 39 carries) are other top rushers.
Santagata said Darby's offensive line and backs will need to buy Bargar enough time to make plays and distribute the ball to the Panthers' other skill players.
UA's 3-5 defense is led by backs Anthony Finissi (27 tackles) and Noah Krimm (25 tackles), and linebackers Mark Crawford (44 tackles) and Wade D'Andrea (17 tackles, 2 interceptions, 1 fumble recovery).
"They blitz from a variety of angles, so we'll need our blockers to pick up their assignments," Santagata said. "Our line did a great job of picking up the blitz against Central Crossing, and this will be another challenge for them."
At a glance
DARBY vs. UPPER ARLINGTON
•When: 7:30 p.m. Friday
•Last meeting: 2007, Darby 35-10
•Upper Arlington (4-1 overall, 2-0 OCC-Central) to date: Lost to Pickerington Central 23-6; defeated Gahanna 42-7; def. Findlay 41-34; def. Thomas Worthington 55-10; def. Worthington Kilbourne 34-9
•Top Golden Bears: Mark Crawford, Alex Drake, Tommy Farwick, Anthony Finissi, Noah Krimm and Isaac Wildermuth
DARBY 45, CENTRAL CROSSING 7
•Star: Darby's Brandon Bargar, who rushed for 114 yards on 12 carries and was 6-for-11 passing for 68 yards and one score
•Key play: Darby's Zach Ison intercepted Jeffrey Yates on the first play of the game and returned it to the Central Crossing 9-yard line. The Panthers scored two plays later
•Key stat: Darby was 7-for-10 on third-down conversions.