It wasn't lost on the Upper Arlington football team that a 10-6 home win over Marysville on Oct. 18 not only was the Golden Bears' fourth win in a row, but it allowed them to take sole possession of first place in the OCC-Central Division and remain in the Division I, Region 3 playoff race.
The Bears are 5-3 overall and 3-0 in the league entering a Friday, Oct. 25, game at Central Crossing, one game ahead of rivals Dublin Coffman and Hilliard Davidson in second place.
Acknowledging that his team's first goal is to win the OCC-Central title for the first time since 2008, coach Jeremey Scally hoped that a second consecutive close win revealed more about his team's character.
"I think it validates what we are doing. It validates the work our kids are putting in," said Scally, whose team defeated Davidson 10-7 on Oct. 11. "It tells you the kids are on the right track. You just keep believing in what you are doing, believing in how you are coaching it and just try to put your kids in the best position to play. We talk a lot about players being the ones who play games. Coaches just have to put them in the best position to make plays, and that's what our kids seem to be doing a pretty good job of."
The Bears scored all of their points against Marysville in the final 2 minutes, 2 seconds of the second quarter.
Tight end Dominic Chiavaroli caught a 6-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Jake Leve and UA took a 7-6 lead on Zack Yoakam's extra point. Yoakam added a 31-yard field goal with seven seconds left in the half before the Bears, who were outgained 275-195 in total yards, leaned on their defense the rest of the way.
Marysville chewed up most of the fourth quarter with a 16-play, 75-yard drive and appeared to take a 12-10 lead on Ryan Kern's touchdown run with about three minutes left, but that was negated by a holding penalty.
Two plays later, Kern caught a pass from Nathan Morey and advanced to UA's 15 before linebacker Marco Landolfi popped the ball loose and safety Shea Keethler recovered.
UA's winning streak is its longest since starting the 2016 season 6-0.
"It shows the grit of our team," Keethler said. "We've been grinding this whole time. We started slow, but we knew this was coming."
The Bears are 8-2 all-time against Central Crossing, including a 24-7 win last year.
"The sign of a good team is that good teams figure out a way to win games," Scally said. "When your defense is on the field almost the entire game and you're just slugging, slugging, slugging, the good teams find a way. They make teams earn everything they get. They just find a way."