POWELL — Olentangy Liberty simply could not match the physicality of the Upper Arlington Bears on Friday night as the Patriots were pushed around from start to finish en route to a 41-24 loss.
Bears running back Carson Gresock carried the ball the 33 times for 188 yards and two touchdowns, while quarterback Simon Monnin threw for 193 yards and three touchdowns in the win. Sam Cannon was the primary beneficiary of Monnin’s performance, hauling in eight catches for 133 yards and two touchdowns.
For the Patriots, a passing game that has been unproductive at times was once again troublesome. Sophomore quarterback J.J. Sebert completed 13 of his 18 attempts for 162 yards and two touchdowns, but much of the damage came late in the second half as Upper Arlington salted away the victory.
Sebert added 75 yards rushing, while running back Chase Brecht was limited to just 59 yards on 19 carries as the Upper Arlington defense bottled up the one-dimensional Liberty offense.
“We’re just not good enough right now,” Liberty coach Steve Hale said after the game. “We have to make a decision if we want to get any better. Upper Arlington and coach (Justin) Buttermore, they did a great job, they had a great gameplan. Their kids were physical, they were aggressive, and they outplayed us. They outcoached us. They did everything better than we did tonight.”
Hale said of his quarterback’s play, which looked tenative at times, “He’s gotta grow up a little bit if he’s going to hold onto the position, and I would assume that’s in jeopardy right now.”
The tone to the game was set very early for Upper Arlington, which established an advantage at both lines of scrimmage and never relented. Following a three-and-out by the Liberty offense, Upper Arlington opened the scoring on their first drive of the game with a 44-yard field goal by Zac Yoakam. The kick gave Upper Arlington a 3-0 lead with 7:03 remaining in the first quarter.
Both teams traded turnovers on the ensuing two drives before the Upper Arlington offense went to work in building its lead. Set up with great field position to start the drive, the Bears needed just five plays to find the end zone. Facing a fourth down at the Liberty 16-yard line, Gresock outran the Patriots defense to paydirt.
Yoakam’s extra point made it 10-0, Upper Arlington, as the game moved to the second quarter.
Still searching for their initial first down of the game, Liberty mounted a much-needed drive early in the second quarter. A 16-yard scramble by Sebert on fourth down kept the drive alive, and Ingram’s 27-yard field goal brought the Patriots within a touchdown at 10-3.
Any momentum captured by Liberty on the scoring drive was short-lived, however, as Upper Arlington answered in a hurry. Monnin connected with Cannon just four plays into the possession, and Cannon outran the Liberty defense 35 yards to the end zone for a 17-3 lead.
Monnin found Cannon once again on the Bears’ next possession, this time for a 64-yard touchdown strike, as Upper Arlington increased the lead to 24-3 with just 1:34 remaining in the first half.
The wheels officially fell off for Liberty on the following kickoff after failing to cover the pooch kick by Upper Arlington, which recovered the ball at the Liberty 25-yard line.
With still 31 seconds with which to work in the half, Upper Arlington cashed in on the Liberty blunder and effectively put the game away. Monnin tossed his third touchdown pass of the half, this time to Carter Brock, to increase Upper Arlington’s lead to 31-3 over Liberty as the two teams headed into the break.
Liberty showed momentary life coming out of halftime, forcing a quick stop of Upper Arlington and scoring on its first possession of the third quarter. Sebert found Alex Okuley on a touchdown pass from 14 yards out to bring the Patriots within three scores at 31-10 just minutes into the third quarter.
But any thoughts of Liberty climbing back into the game were erased on Upper Arlington’s next possession after a 13-play drive melted away most of the third quarter. Yoakam’s 27-yard field goal capped off the drive, increasing Upper Arlington’s lead to 34-10 midway through the fourth quarter.
Gresock added his second touchdown run of the night to increase the Upper Arlington lead, and a late Liberty touchdown provided a little bit of window dressing on an empahtic victory for the undefeated Bears.
With the loss, Liberty falls to 4-3 on the season. The Patriots travel to take on Hilliard Bradley next week.
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.