The Upper Arlington High School football team is in jeopardy of missing the playoffs for the second year in a row.

The Upper Arlington High School football team is in jeopardy of missing the playoffs for the second year in a row.

The Golden Bears conclude the regular season Friday with an OCC-Central Division game at Dublin Coffman. They are in a must-win situation. UA is 12th in the Division I, Region 3 computer ratings after dropping to 6-3 overall and 4-2 in the OCC-Central with a 34-7 loss to Hilliard Davidson last Friday.

The top eight teams in each region make the playoffs.

UA not only must beat Coffman, it must get help to reach the postseason. The top three teams in the region - Pickerington Central, Davidson and Westerville South - have clinched playoff berths, and Springfield (fourth), Coffman (fifth) and Hilliard Darby (sixth) are likely to make the postseason even if they lose their final games. The seventh team in the region, Troy, also seems destined for the playoffs, as it closes against winless Sidney.

As a result, the Bears' best hope of sneaking into the playoffs appears to rest with Pickerington North, which is eighth in the region. The Panthers travel to Grove City on Friday.

In addition to a loss by North, UA would need Groveport (ninth) and Mount Vernon (11th) to lose on Friday. With a win over Coffman, the Bears would finish ahead of Lancaster (10th) regardless of the Golden Gales' outcome against Newark on Friday.

However, it won't matter what North, Groveport and Mount Vernon do on Friday if UA doesn't take care of business against Coffman, which improved to 7-2 and 5-1 with a 38-14 win over Worthington Kilbourne last Friday.

"We can't control what other teams do," senior fullback Drew Karram said. "We only can control what we do against Coffman. We have to beat them and hope things work out in our favor."

UA, which last missed the playoffs in back-to-back seasons in 2003 and '04, should get a boost from the expected return of Karram and junior running Ryan McSheffery. Karram has been sidelined the last four games with a high right-ankle sprain and McSheffery has played sparingly the last four games because of a broken left big toe.

"It's doing better," Karram said of his ankle. "I've been going through physical therapy for a few weeks, and I've been jogging and running a little bit trying to strengthen my ankle. It's pretty much 100 percent."

Karram had rushed for 398 yards on 58 carries (6.9 average) and had scored seven touchdowns before suffering the injury in the third quarter of the Bears' 21-18 win over Kilbourne on Sept. 24.

"I was trying to fight for more yards and I got caught up in a pile and my leg got pinned underneath me," Karram said. "I heard a snap and thought I broke my ankle. I've really never had such a serious injury before."

Coach Mike Golden said McSheffery's injury occurred early in the season, although he continued to play through the pain until it became almost unbearable.

"He's not been 100 percent almost the entire year," Golden said of McSheffery, who has rushed for 292 yards on 64 carries (4.6 average). "(The injury) was first diagnosed as turf toe, which is a sprain. It's tough to play with that injury. It's a nagging injury and he was fighting it for four or five weeks. It wasn't getting any better, so he recently had an X-ray and (the doctor) found a fracture in a bone in his toe."

McSheffery had six carries for 13 yards in a 21-6 loss to Darby on Oct. 1 and three carries for no yards in an 84-6 win over Central Crossing on Oct. 8. He sat out the Bears' 72-0 win over Westland on Oct. 15 as well as the loss to Davidson.

"He could've played on it, but that just makes it worse," Golden said. "There was no sense in having him play. He was barely able to practice."

With Karram and McSheffery on the sideline, Golden turned to Kyle Vesper to get the bulk of the carries. Vesper had gotten some carries the last two seasons, but that was at quarterback when the Bears employed their Wildcat offense.

"It's a different role for him, but he's up to (the challenge)," Golden said. "He's a senior captain and a leader. He's not a power runner, he's a slip-and-slide guy trying to make cuts, but he gets where he needs to go. He's more than capable (of being an effective running back)."

"I've known the position a few years from when I was on the (junior varsity) team, so the adjustment was just playing it at the varsity level," Vesper said. "I actually like running back more than running the Wildcat offense. You hate to see guys get injured, but I was very excited about the opportunity I had to play running back."

Vesper had rushed for 130 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries (6.2 average) through five games. Over the past four games as the Bears' primary running back, he has gained 257 yards and scored five touchdowns on 31 carries (8.3 average).

"I think he's done a great job," Karram said. "He really hadn't played running back before, but he's come up huge for us. He's helped us win games."

Gus Ackley, a sophomore who was moved up from junior varsity because of the injuries, also has contributed. He has rushed for 245 yards and five touchdowns on 20 carries (12.3 average).