Upper Arlington High School football coach Joel Cutler and his Westerville Central counterpart, John Magistro, both emphasized improvement as they approached their week 2 meeting Friday, Sept. 2.

Upper Arlington High School football coach Joel Cutler and his Westerville Central counterpart, John Magistro, both emphasized improvement as they approached their week 2 meeting Friday, Sept. 2.

The mission for the host Golden Bears will be staying at least a step, or more, ahead of the Warhawks.

UA is 1-0, coming off a 26-14 win over St. Charles on Aug. 26 in which it bolted to a 16-point first-quarter lead and withstood a second-half surge before pulling away.

Central, meanwhile, found itself going back to the drawing board after a 39-10 loss at Gahanna on Aug. 26. It was the most lopsided loss for the Warhawks since Nov. 22, 2014, when they lost to Lakewood St. Edward 41-0 in a Division I, Region 1 semifinal, and it equaled their worst regular-season defeat since a 41-0 loss to Westerville South on Sept. 12, 2008.

"We're searching for some guys to step up," said Magistro, whose team was 31-6 the past three seasons. "We've had to cut our offense pretty much in half this year, which is hard because we've been rolling for years.

"We've just got to get better. When you make mistakes, it's something you can correct. But when things go the way they went (against Gahanna) and you're not tackling, it's harder to correct."

Allen Smith, a transfer from St. Charles, rushed for 75 yards and quarterback Wilson Misiuk threw for 88 yards against Gahanna to lead Central, which is trying to replace two key 2016 graduates in quarterback Gavin Lyon and running back Benny Snell, who now plays for the University of Kentucky.

Two Central turnovers in the third quarter led to Gahanna touchdowns, as the Lions pulled away from a 7-all score at halftime by scoring 12 points in the third quarter and 20 in the fourth.

UA also is trying to find its way on offense, as it returned just three starters. Running back E.J. Caldwell helped spring the Bears to a 16-0 first-quarter lead against St. Charles, as he ran for an 11-yard touchdown and caught an 88-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Riley Cooper.

Caldwell ran for 60 yards on 18 carries, and Avery Heath had 89 yards on nine carries.

Linebacker Mason Myers had eight tackles, including six solo, and linebacker Dante Landolfi added 7.5 to lead the Bears' experienced defense that returned eight starters.

Still, Cutler was concerned that St. Charles converted on two fourth downs and his own team was 5-for-13 on third-down conversions.

"The biggest challenge is about us improving fundamentals and the small details. If we can control that, we'll be fine," Cutler said. "How much better can we get? The good teams do that. They grow a lot from that last scrimmage to game 3. If we continue to grow and improve like I know we will, we'll be in the hunt at the end."

Central's defense is led by honorable mention all-district linebacker James Schneider, who led the Warhawks with 85 tackles last year.

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave