The Upper Arlington High School football team’s locker room was quiet and somber after a 26-0 loss to visiting Westerville South on Sept. 15, but activity buzzed just down the hall in the one area coach Joel Cutler would rather it not – the training room.
The room was nearly full with players having various injuries checked out, leading Cutler to be unsure who will fill certain positions as the Golden Bears visit powerful Pickerington Central on Friday, Sept. 22.
“I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anything like this,” Cutler said. “I haven’t seen this many injuries in my career at one time. I think I’ve had more this year than in my entire coaching career.”
Quarterback Sammy Sass injured his left shoulder in the first quarter when he was sacked on what became the first touchdown of the game, but remained in the game. Lineman Jake Evans tore his left ACL and will miss the rest of the season, and lineman Jack Stephens also was injured, although the extent wasn’t immediately clear, according to Cutler.
Those injuries were among the lowlights as UA sunk to 2-2 with its first shutout loss since Oct. 11, 2013, when it fell 21-0 to Hilliard Davidson, and follow previous injuries to top running back Brandon Horsley (ACL) and kicker Jimmy Stavridis (broken collarbone).
“(Injuries) affected the game script of what the next man up can execute, things of that nature,” Cutler said. “All we can do is see where we are health-wise and try to plan the best we can for Pickerington Central and get back to work. It is what it is and we are where we are. We still have some key spots where guys will be out, but all we can do is play with the guys that we have.”
South’s Antonio Smith sacked Sass at the goal line with less than two minutes left in the first quarter, forcing a fumble that was recovered in the end zone by Michael Mansaray. Running back and Ohio State commit Jaelen Gill added three rushing touchdowns in the second half, and South’s defense limited UA to 179 total yards.
Central is 3-1, coming off a 33-7 win at Groveport on Sept. 15. Jamir Jackson ran for 80 yards and three first-half touchdowns on seven carries, Xavier Henderson started the scoring with a 14-yard touchdown run in the first quarter and Jeremiah Wood added a 1-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.
Jackson leads the Tigers in rushing with 302 yards and seven touchdowns on 47 carries. Quarterback Demeatric Crenshaw has rushed for 242 yards and three touchdowns on 64 carries and has completed 35 of 61 passes for 549 yards with three touchdowns and an interception.
Tight end/linebacker Trenton Gillison and Henderson, a wide receiver and defensive back, both are Michigan State commits.
Henderson had seven interceptions last season and was named Division I district Defensive Player of the Year.
UA has won its past two games against Central, 35-29 in overtime last year and 27-17 in a Division I, Region 3 first-round playoff game in 2015. UA was realigned into Region 2 for this season.
“We just have to fix us,” Cutler said. “More than anything right now, we just have to figure out who is going to be playing.”