STANWOOD — It was a fourth quarter that had more twists and turns than a Chubby Checker song set on repeat. But when the final twist occurred, it was the Arlington Eagles who found themselves lifting the Stilly Cup yet one more time.
Arlington scored home-run touchdowns twice in the last six minutes of the game, then the Eagles blocked a potential game-winning field goal as time expired as they defeated the Stanwood Spartans 28-27 Friday night at Stanwood High School to win their eighth straight Stilly Cup.
Cade Younger returned a kickoff 75 yards for a touchdown with less than four minutes remaining in regulation, then Michael VanBeek blocked a last-second 23-yard Stanwood field-goal attempt as Arlington (5-2 overall, 3-1 Wesco 3A North) continued its mastery over its archrival.
“Oh jeez, what a cardiac arrest!” Arlington coach Greg Dailer said. “We think we have it, then we fumble, I’m kind of speechless. It was quite the ending.
“It means a lot,” Dailer added about winning the Stilly Cup. “Stanwood is improving, they’re a really good team this year, it just means a lot to continue to win that game.”
Arlington quarterback Anthony Whitis was 12-for-22 for 177 yards and two touchdowns, while Campbell Hudson caught six passes for 104 yards and two scores to lead Arlington (3-1 Wesco 3A North, 5-2 overall). Arlington won despite playing without several key players, including top offensive threat Tallen Williams, for undisclosed reasons.
Stanwood (2-5, 2-3) was led by the one-two punch of running backs Tyler Rich and Nick Deline. The bruising Rich ran for 132 yards on 33 carries and scored a touchdown, and he added five catches for 85 yards. Deline, the outside runner, went for 89 yards on 14 carries and scored two TDs.
The final six minutes of Friday’s game couldn’t have been more intense or action-filled. It began with Arlington, trailing 21-14, having a chance to tie it when Whitis hit Hudson deep down the right sideline for a 65-yard touchdown. However, a bad snap on the ensuing extra point left the Eagles trailing by one.
Stanwood responded, with Rich’s 65-yard reception on a screen pass setting up his 1-yard touchdown plunge. With the score 27-20 with 3:58 remaining the Spartans decided to go for two to make it a two-score game and essentially put it out of reach, but Arlington’s defense came up with the stop to give themselves a shot.
And it turned out they didn’t need long to take that shot. An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty following Rich’s touchdown backed the Spartans up 15 yards on the ensuing kickoff, which Younger scooped up at his own 25 and raced up the middle and through traffic before pulling away for a touchdown.
Then it was Arlington’s turn to decide to go for two to take the lead rather than settle for the tie, and the Eagles dialed up a trick play, with Younger taking a pitch to the left, then lofting the ball back to the right to Whitis for the conversion and a one-point lead.
It looked as though the Eagles had won it when on Stanwood’s next drive they turned the Spartans over on downs with 2:17 remaining. But on the very next play Arlington fumbled the handoff exchange and Stanwood’s Tre Frankhauser recovered to give the Spartans new life.
Stanwood found itself down to its last play again, only for Bill Wanambisi to make an unbelievable catch between two defenders along the sidelines to convert fourth-and 13. Then a 9-yard Deline run gave Stanwood the ball at the Arlington 1-yard line with 7 seconds remaining and no timeouts. The Spartans decided to run one play to try and get the touchdown, and Arlington nearly had an interception. Then with 3 seconds remaining they went for the chip-shot field goal, only for VanBeek to save it for the Eagles.
Stanwood got off to the perfect in its attempt to end its losing streak against its archrival. The Spartans forced a three-and-out on the game’s first possession, including a pair of sacks. Then Stanwood took advantage of the resulting short field to march into the end zone, with Karl DeBoer hitting twin brother Trygve DeBoer wide open on a 5-yard touchdown pass after the defender fell down, staking the Spartans to a 7-0 lead.
Arlington regained momentum by taking advantage of good field position of its own. First, a short punt set the Eagles up at the Spartan 35- yard line, and a seven-play drive was capped off by Whitis sneaking in from 1 yard out to tie the score at 7-7. Arlington then turned Stanwood over on downs to get the ball at its own 39, and a nine-play drive was finished off by Hudson outleaping his defender for a 17-yard jump ball in the right corner to make it 14-7.
Just when it seemed the Eagles were gaining control of the game the Spartans answered behind a run game picking up 10 yards a pop. On a well-blocked sweep to the right Deline raced 15 yards untouched for a touchdown late in the second quarter, and the score was tied 14-14 at the half. Deline then scored on the same play, this time from 16 yards, on the first play of the fourth quarter to set up the wild finish.