The Upper Arlington and Westerville Central high school football teams are treating their Week 2 meeting as a gut check, albeit in different respects.
While the Golden Bears are coming off a 53-0 rout of St. Charles on Aug. 25, the Warhawks coaching staff found themselves back at the drawing board after a 24-3 loss to Gahanna that same night.
Central had just 132 yards of offense, including only 5 on the ground. Its only points came on a 31-yard field goal from Jacob Borcila in the first quarter.
“We’ll probably have a couple position changes. We’re looking at a lot of things,” Central coach John Magistro said. “What (Gahanna) threw at us was not surprising. We just got out-athleted. We played some young kids who were pretty green and probably had some first-game jitters, but hopefully those are out of the way now. This week will be another big test.”
UA, meanwhile, needed only 38 plays to amass 371 total yards against the Cardinals.
Running back Avery Heath rushed for 209 yards and three touchdowns, quarterback Sammy Sass completed four of seven passes for 92 yards and a touchdown and linebacker Ben Krimm’s 5 1/2 tackles led seven players who made at least three stops.
But Bears coach Joel Cutler is anticipating a game similar to last year, when UA needed two touchdowns in the final three minutes to pull out a 24-20 win.
“That was one of our toughest games,” Cutler said. “It’s critical to improve from your first game to your second game, and they gave us everything we could handle last year. I expect the same thing this week.”
Central quarterback Isaiah Healy, a second-year starter, completed seven of 18 passes against Gahanna for 76 yards and was intercepted three times. Gahanna ran 82 plays to Central’s 53.
Running back Allen Smith was held to 21 yards on nine carries.
“Their special teams are a weapon,” Cutler said. “(Borcila) is unbelievable; he can go eight yards deep in the end zone at just about any time. They have a big, strong offensive line that will make things tough on our defense. They’re going to spread the ball around with a lot of zone-read looks and a lot of screens. We will have to be aware. One thing I really liked (last week) was our discipline on defense, and we will need that again.”
Sass, Heath and tight end Will Robbins - who caught the winning touchdown against Central last year - lead an offense complemented by a veteran defense whose anchors include linemen Nick Cipriano and Jackson Ness and linebacker Dante Landolfi, who has been offered preferred walk-on status at Stanford University and is drawing interest from several Ivy League schools.
“They’re sound at what they do. They simplify things,” Magistro said. “While a lot of teams spread the ball out (including Central), Upper Arlington is one of those that makes its living off options and traps. You’ll see bigger quarterbacks than (Sass), but he knows what to do. I like how their defensive line gets off the ball, and their linebackers get downhill really fast. Their front six or seven are very good.”