Maybe the key for the Upper Arlington High School football team to sustain success is to eliminate its own mistakes.
While that is probably an obvious statement, all Golden Bears coach Joel Cutler needs to do to support it is point to the past two weeks.
A week after committing five turnovers and 10 penalties in a 31-21 loss at Westerville Central, the Bears had only two penalties for 15 yards and played turnover-free ball in a 24-14 win at Westerville North on Sept. 8.
“We worked hard last week to focus and improve on us,” said Cutler, whose team is 2-1 entering a home game Friday, Sept. 15, against Westerville South. “So much of it is about discipline. You try to learn from your mistakes. You can talk until you’re blue in the face about that, but sometimes seeing those mistakes happening and learning from them is the way you fix them. That’s all you can ask for is to learn from your mistakes.”
UA might need another mistake-free night, especially on defense, as it tries to contain South standout running back Jaelen Gill. The Ohio State commit, who was sidelined for almost all of last season because of a broken right fibula, flashed his versatility in a 23-18 loss to Hilliard Darby on Sept. 8, as he caught six passes for 126 yards and a touchdown but was held to 22 yards rushing and a touchdown on 13 carries.
“He has big-play potential every time he touches the ball,” Cutler said. “Their quarterback (Max Barber) is a threat, too, because when he sees people crowding the box hoping to stop Gill, he’s capable of making a play-action pass downfield and hurting you that way.”
Barber completed 15 of 22 passes for 271 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions against Darby. South, which outgained Darby 326-293 in total yards, turned the ball over on each of its final two possessions.
South’s defense is led by end Antonio Smith, a Bowling Green commit.
UA quarterback Sammy Sass figured into all three touchdowns against North, running 31 yards for a score and throwing touchdown passes of 21 yards to Eli D’Herete and 74 yards to Steven Bair.
D’Herete also rushed for 73 yards on 23 carries as the spotlight back in the absence of Avery Heath. According to Cutler, Heath suffered an ankle injury against Central and possibly could play against South.
That comes after original projected starter Brandon Horsley tore his right ACL in August, ending his season.
“Eli is a great example of our ‘next man up’ mentality,” Cutler said. “He’s a hard worker, he runs well and he definitely can catch the ball if that opportunity presents itself.”
Also against Central, kicker Jimmy Stavridis suffered a broken collarbone and, according to Cutler, is not expected back until mid-October at the earliest. Hayden Raish has taken over kicking duties.
Linebacker Dante Landolfi led the defense against North with 13 tackles, 11 of which were solo.