Workmanlike UA beats Davidson for center title


Upper Arlington’s Tommy Janowicz tackles Davidson’s James Tarantine one night, the Golden Bears defense was dominating. (PressPros presentation photos by John Hulkenberg).

Many took it for granted that a rebuilding season was in the cards for Upper Arlington. But with courage, cohesion and an all-for-one, one-for-all approach, the Golden Bears are 8-2 heading into the playoffs.

Hilliard, Ohio – With just three returning starters from an ultra-talented 14-1 team that made it all the way to the Division I semifinals in 2021, not much was expected of Upper Arlington this fall . Except, that is, players and coaches wearing black and gold.

“The goal when you’re building a program is to put in place a work ethic and a belief system that no matter how talented you feel you’re going to be successful,” third-year coach Justin said. Buttermore. “This team might not have a lot of superstars per se, but that’s fine with me. We just have a lot of guys who make others around them better…guys who just do their job.

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A rebuilding season was obviously not an option for this Golden Bears team, who – in typical professional fashion – beat rival Hilliard Davidson 24-6 on Friday in the regular season finale, securing a championship share of the Central Division of the Ohio Capital Conference with Dublin. Coffmann. UA (8-2, 4-1) will head to the Region 3 playoffs with a top-three seed and a realistic chance to advance deep into the playoffs again.

“After losing 19 starters, there were obviously a lot of question marks around this team, but the mindset here is not about rebuilding,” quarterback James Hayek said. “There were a lot of guys who worked hard in the offseason to get the opportunity to come in and earn starting spots. Even those of us who haven’t played much learned a lot from watching last year’s team, the most important thing being to play without fear. We saw what our players were capable of against teams like Pickerington Central and Lakewood St. Edward.

Davidson’s Turner Schmidt (2) and Oliver Conley (44) tackle Upper Arlington’s James Hayek (17).

Pickerington Central coach Jay Sharrett has often spoken of the value of young players who benefit from an extra four or five weeks of training as well as big game experience, even though much of it has been spent on margin. Buttermore, who also guided Dresden Tri-Valley to a state title game in 2017, fully agreed with that assessment.

“There’s no doubt that the experiment lives on,” Buttermore said. “Our returning kids came to camp with something to prove. They knew they were responsible for stepping up and fulfilling those roles and making plays, and they took that to heart and owned it.

While it’s impossible to replace generational players in star skill positions such as running back Carson Gresock, quarterback Simon Monnin and receiver Sam Cannon, Upper Arlington has done so with a host of role players. on both sides of the ball. The attack goes through Hayek, an efficient passer and capable runner. The defense allowed just 10.6 points per game.

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The win over Davidson (4-6, 2-3) was, for the most part, a microcosm of the season. Hayek completed 12 of 19 passes for 147 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 69 yards on 13 carries, including a pair of 1-yard TD carries. With rushers leader Connor McClelland sidelined with injury, Hayek did most of the heavy lifting.

Davidson’s James Tarantine (23) attempts to block Upper Arlington’s Cole Compton (30) as QB Johnny DiBlasio looks to run.

“We started off a little slow (losing their opener to Pickerington North, 18-13) but we knew it was going to be a week-by-week process with so many inexperienced players and we really came together as a team,” said Hayek.

UA opened the contest when Hayek connected with Wallace Swiney on a 40-yard TD pass with 3:37 left in the third quarter to make it 24-0. Swiney, a 5-foot-6, 148-pound sophomore who hasn’t seen a varsity time in 2021, had six catches for 90 yards.

“I just came out this season competing in my position and I hope to contribute,” Swiney said. “I just built a connection with James. We just have a lot of trust in each other. The long touchdown on post play was a perfect example. He trusted me to get behind the defender and he put him there for me to catch.

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Averaging just under 13 points per game, Davidson came out on a solid drive that stalled when quarterback Johnny DiBlasio was fired by Steven Ye for a six-yard loss in the third-and-seven. Ye led the way. Bears defense with three sacks and two tackles for loss. Tommy Janowicz and George Gerber each recorded six solo tackles.

UA responded to the defensive stoppage with a 13-play, 95-yard drive that chewed up more than six minutes.

“They’re tough to get off the field,” Buttermore said. “They’re capable of doing unique things in the attack they’re leading, and the fact that we were able to get that save in the first practice was key.”

Davidson’s coach Jeremey Scally called the opening practice “a great indicator of things to come,” adding that the character of the Wildcats has been revealed too often when adversity hits.

“Davidson football continues to beat Davidson football with errors,” he said. “Our children sometimes look like a deer in the headlights.”

Holden Miliken threw a 49-yard field goal to make it 10-0 midway through the second quarter.

UA veered on another score just before halftime after Davidson missed a punt at his own 35.

The Golden Bears held the Wildcats without a first down the entire third quarter.

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Midway through the fourth quarter, DiBlasio hit Mikey Clark on back-to-back passes for 35 and 30 yards, the latter a touchdown, to help Davidson cover a 97-yard drive and avoid the shutout.

For unknown reasons, this rivalry between adjacent Columbus suburbs didn’t begin until 1991. Although Arlington has won the last four meetings, Davidson still leads the series 20-9, built largely during the era Brian White from 1999 to 2019 when the Wildcats won. two state titles. With the exception of Olentangy Liberty, no other Central Ohio team has a winning record against UA in its storied 96-year history.

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