Can you say Epitropoulos? Can you say diversified one-dimensional grinding time-consuming offense? Can you say beat-down opportunistic juggernaut defense that disallowed minus 32 yards rushing? Can you say another MVPHD Game of the Week showdown? Sure you can!
Video by Alex Sator
HILLIARD DAVIDSON DOMINATES UPPER ARLINGTON
By Tim Langevin
HILLIARD – Hilliard Davidson stuffed Upper Arlington’s high-potent offense (41.3 ppg) and along the way, workhorse RB Alex Mickley carried the rock 33 times for 163 yards, as the Wildcats mixed the perfect ingredients for a 25-7 victory over “hated rival” Upper Arlington in Ohio Capital Conference-Central Division action Friday night.
Senior DT Dylan Skaggs, who had two of six sacks for the Wildcats, bluntly said, “This was a huge win. Our philosophy is if they can’t score, they can’t win. Obviously, we gave up a score, but that’s our goal every game. I’m just glad we won. We don’t like them and they don’t like us. It’s pretty heated in all sports.”
For the second straight week, Davidson dispatched another threat to their perfect 8-0 season and second straight division championship. Last week, HD beat previously unbeaten Dublin Coffman 14-0. More important, the Wildcats clinched a D-1, Region 3 playoff berth.
Davidson head coach Brian White said, “We don’t deserve to be ranked 7th in the state. We aren’t the best team in Central Ohio. Pick Central (Pickerington) is the best team…I love my kids. We will keep fighting and playing. Do whatever it takes to win. I don’t worry about rankings. I let the media people handle all that.”
Sounds like Lou Holtz back in the day.
Davidson may not be as big or fast as some of the other D-I ranked teams in the state, but they just “keep winning baby”. The proof is in the resume. The Wildcats have been the state’s top D-I program the past six years with two state titles (2006 and 2009), three regional championships and four regional finals. During this span, they have compiled a 67-7 mark, including a 15-game Central Division win streak.
Davidson set the tone on the opening drive of the game with an 80-yard march that consumed 7:43 of the clock. Plenty of time for several hot dogs and a bathroom visit. The offense ran the ball 16 straight plays. Mickley carried the load with 11 touches for 56 yards on direct handoffs, option pitches, dive plays, counter plays, and jet sweeps. Sometimes QB Brandon Gleim operated out of the shotgun and other times under center. Gleim capped the journey with a one-yard TD plunge for a 7-0 lead with 4:17 left in the quarter.
The Wildcats tacked on a 22-yard field goal by Jack Johns with :02 left in the half for a precarious 10-0 margin. HD covered 62 yards in 12 plays with Mickley thundering for 23 yards on four totes. RB Tyler Talbott kept the drive alive with a nifty 19-yard scamper on third down and 10.
The Golden Bears struggled on offense in the first half with one first down and three yards rushing, but WR Frank Epitropoulos (Ohio State) kept it competitive with five catches for 46 yards. He finished the night with six catches for 52 yards, but was denied the endzone, thanks to double coverage by DBs Chase Delande and Chris Harris.
The three-star recruit said, “It’s expected. I’m used to double coverage. Can’t do anything about it. Just have to make the best of the situation. No need to whine and cry. We have to get ready for next week (Dublin Coffman). Hope to play this team again in the playoffs.”
It has been a frustrating season for the 6’3, 190-pound senior. Facing double and triple coverage all season, Epitropoulos has managed 17 catches for 370 yards and five TDs. Regardless, he is eager to don the scarlet and gray colors once the season is over.
“I don’t care who the coach is,” said Epitropoulos. “I am a proud Buckeye. I will have plenty of motivation to perform next year. It will be a big adjustment. The speed is different at the college level and I will be playing against older men.”
No doubt he has all the tangibles to succeed. He runs a 4.47 40-dash, a 4.1 shuttle, a 41-inch vertical jump, benches 255 pounds and squats 350 pounds. Add to that a 3.47 GPA, this young man is ready for some Big 10 football. One recruiting analyst said, “This kid has it all – height, speed, hands, route running, and concentration in traffic.”
Upper Arlington assembled their best drive of the game, covering 60 yards in seven plays to narrow the gap 10-7 with 5:10 left in the third quarter. The big play was a 41-yard gain on a pass play from QB David Smith to RB Garrett Powers. Five plays later, it was Powers who pounced on a fumble in the endzone after RB Gus Ackley was hit before crossing the plane.
Unable to establish any ground game, Smith was successful through the air, completing 10-of-19 passes for 109 yards. The senior signal-caller is 71-of-125 on the season for 1,005 yards.
With Davidson clinging to a 10-7 lead early in the fourth quarter, the Wildcats were forced to punt after driving to the Upper Arlington 36-yard-line. Punter Tyler Talbott pooched it inside the 10-yard-line and Sean Neimeister (BGSU) downed it inside the one-yard-line. The next play, LB Ian Losey tackled Ackley in the endzone for a safety and a 12-7 lead with 9:09 left in the contest. It was looking like game three of the World Series.
“That was the play of the game,” White said. “They had the momentum and then we got it back.”
Three running plays by Mickley for 16 yards to the UA 23-yard-line, set up a little premature Halloween action. HD dialed up a trick play. RB Talbott found a wide-open Nick Waters on a half-back pass for a 23-yard pitch and catch and dash to the endzone. What a treat for the Wildcats as they stretched the lead 18-7 with 7:24 remaining. That was the only completed pass of the game for the Wildcats in three attempts. It was all ground control to Alex Mickley.
White explained, “Last week we were faced with a fourth and two and we went for it and didn’t get it. I didn’t waiver my trust for my kids. Tyler came over to me and said I think our halfback pass is going to be wide open. We went with it. It was his call.”
The Upper Arlington offense was shut down the rest of the way. QB Smith was sacked six times in the game, four in the fourth quarter. Skaggs had 2 sacks, Nick Wright 1 1/2 sacks, Michael Wilt 1 1/2 sacks, and Sam Coles added one.
Upper Arlington coach Mike Golden said, “It was a great game for three quarters. You can’t have a letdown against a team like them at all.”
Talbott added another score from eight yards out to finish off UA 25-7 with 1:54 left in the game. It was a busy and productive Senior Night for this senior. He completed 1-of-1 pass for a 23-yard TD, carried the ball 13 times for 66 yards and a score, and punted seven times for a 36.4 average.
Last week Mickley carried the ball 46 times for 160 yards. After two straight weeks, Mickley has carried the ball 79 times for 323 yards. On the season, he has 952 yards and 14 TDs. Last season he earned Honorable Mention All-Ohio with 1,538 yards and 29 TDs. He defines one-trick pony.
In his 13th season, White (132-32) said, “We purposely limit his carries at the beginning of the season so we can save him for our stretch run. He is a tough kid and will do whatever to help this team win. We lost our other back (E.J. Jennings) week five with a leg injury so Mickley has had to step up.”
Mickley is undecided which college he wants to play for next year, but has narrowed it down between Ashland and Butler. He will make a decision at the end of the season.
Said Mickley, “My focus is next week. Go home and ice my body…This was a huge win against a big rival…Can’t predict. A lot of good teams in our region. We all come together. We are a close group and love each other…Just have to wait and see. That’s why we play the games. I don’t mind being the underdog. I know I’m not ready for our season to end anytime soon.”
Hilliard Davidson held Upper Arlington to 77 yards of offense and four first downs. They have outscored their opponents 304-28. The Wildcats play 7-2 Hilliard Darby this week for the outright division championship, the 19th in school history.
Golden said, “They are a great football team with a great defense. We don’t have time to cry about this loss because we have to get ready for next week and play our best.”
Upper Arlington faces another big exam week 10 against 9-1 Dublin Coffman. The Golden Bears drop to 7-2 and may be on the bubble in the region three computer rankings. UA has missed the playoffs two straight seasons.
And so, thus endeth another high-stakes MVPHD Game of the Week. Week 10 promises to be another dandy. Kenton travels to Wapakoneta in a battle of 9-0 teams for the outright Western Buckeye League championship. And sensational senior QB Maty Mauk looking to add to his plethora of national passing records.