State Spotlight: Upper Arlington, Gahanna square off in Central Ohio

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Upper Arlington and Gahanna Lincoln meet Friday in a key Central Ohio clash between Division I powers

Take an old rivalry between Gahanna and Upper Arlington, and mix it with UA coming off a tough 23-6 loss to Pickerington Central to open the season. That’s a recipe Gahanna first-year head coach John Snoad believes will lead to a “rabid” opponent when his Lions travel to play the Golden Bears Friday.


Take an old rivalry between Gahanna and Upper Arlington, and mix it with UA coming off a tough 23-6 loss to Pickerington Central to open the season. That’s a recipe Gahanna first-year head coach John Snoad believes will lead to a “rabid” opponent when his Lions travel to play the Golden Bears Friday.

“Upper Arlington is a long and storied program that has great kids and a great coaching staff,” Snoad said. “After a tough loss to a very good Pickerington Central team, they’re going to be hungry and rabid going into this game.”

Following 14 seasons at Napoleon, Snoad made the move in the offseason to take the head job at Gahanna, something that he’s been very happy with.

“Gahanna has been great,” Snoad said. “The people here have been wonderful, we have a great coaching staff and hard working kids. This is a great environment, and I’m fortunate my kids get to go here.”

The Lions debuted under their new head coach last week with a 52-0 win over Columbus Mifflin. Gahanna took advantage of five takeaways, three coming in the first half.

“Our defense did a good job of running to the ball and forcing those turnovers,” Snoad said. “They gave our offense short fields to work with. We didn’t really have a long drive in the first half.

“The defense did a nice job of hitting and tackling, and I was pleased with their improvement.”

Gahanna registered 241 yards rushing, paced by Earl Cunningham gaining 85 yards and scoring three touchdowns.

“On offense, we still need our offensive line to play with some more consistency … and more punch,” Snoad said. “We did get those five turnovers, but we also put the ball on the ground times ourselves and lost two of those. That’s something we have to improve on.”

Snoad said he has been impressed by the Golden Bears’ “solid defense against the run”, and the multiple looks UA gives on offense, including a blend of Wing-T, eye and some spread looks. One of the areas Snoad believes the game could come down to is kicking.

“They have some guys who can break away if we don’t get down and cover the kick well,” he said. “We kicked the ball out of the end zone several times last week, but you never know how the weather is going to be.”

Upper Arlington head coach Mike Golden was not pleased with some of the mistakes the Bears made last week against Pickerington Central. The Golden Bears turned the ball over five times, helping to lead to all 23 points the Tigers scored.

“I was happy with the effort, but the execution was not there,” he said. “We made a lot of foolish mistakes.

“Pickerington is a good team and they were able to prey on some situations, but we also had a lot of self-inflicted wounds.”

The Golden Bears have been trying to nurse some injuries, while improving on what Golden called “the basics”.

“It sounds basic, but football often comes down to the basics. We have to become better blockers and better tacklers to get to where we want to be,” he said.

One of the injuries came to projected starting quarterback Kyle Cassday, who suffered a broken arm. John Townsley started last week against Central, and Alex Drake also saw some time at quarterback, moving over from tailback. Drake is expected to see time again this week against Gahanna.

Golden has been impressed with the transition Snoad has made from Napoleon to Gahanna.

“John is doing a good job of taking what he offered at Napoleon, bringing it to Gahanna and making it more versatile,” he said. “They have a really good tailback (Cunningham), a really good quarterback (Cord McCallister) and a really nice receiver (Brandon Magbagbeola). They can make plays out of multiple schemes.

“On defense, they also use a lot of different schemes and are very aggressive. They blitz a lot and have been making real progress.”

One of the benefits to a tough UA schedule for Golden is to see what his team needs to work on.

“We design our schedule to always expose what we need to work on,” Golden said. “We show people what we need to improve on, and work really hard on each part.

“With this schedule, we want to play with a sense of urgency, and identify what we do best.”

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