ARLINGTON — After two games the Arlington Eagles football team had a lot of work to do.
They were 0-2 with losses to Marysville Pilchuck and Oak Harbor. In both games, the Eagles struggled to move the ball. Their defense improved greatly against Oak Harbor, but they couldn’t get off the field. The Wildcats ran over 90 offensive plays, while the Eagles ran just over 30.
After the game, a 36-15 loss to the Wildcats, Arlington head coach Greg Dailer had a talk with his senior wide receiver Skylor Elgarico.
“I told him after the Oak Harbor game, ‘the best way to get you the ball is to just snap it to you,’” Dailer said. “He was a team player and he said, ‘Sure, I’ll do it.’
“I might have moved him sooner had I not known how much he wanted to play receiver,” Dailer added.
The following Friday the Eagles faced Stanwood in their annual Stilly Cup rivalry. The Spartans came into the game with a record of 2-0 and appeared to be on the rise, while the Eagles were just trying to find their identity.
With Elgarico behind center, they found it. In one of the biggest one-week turnarounds in recent memory, the Eagles put up 40 points on Stanwood in the first quarter alone and marched to a 60-0 drubbing of the Spartans.
“From the looks of the first two weeks I was hoping that we would definitely have a change on offense and be able to pick it up a lot more,” Elgarico said. “But I wasn’t expecting anything like that. How we all came together and just made such a turnaround, it was great.”
Elgarico was the star of this year’s win over Stanwood. In his first game at quarterback this season he ran for 192 yards on seven carries and scored five touchdowns. He also completed 3 of 7 passes for 95 yards and one score.
Dailer was just as surprised as Elgarico in the margin of victory.
“I was very surprised,” Dailer said. “It was just the perfect storm. Anything that could go wrong did go wrong — and I’ve been on that side of the ball before. And anything that could go right did go right for us. I don’t think that we are 60 points better than Stanwood. I truly believed we were going to win that game, with the move on offense and just the way our defense was playing, I thought we would beat them. But it was just kind of a perfect storm for the way the score ended. Stanwood is a pretty good football team.”
Still, Dailer isn’t worried that his team’s quick turnaround will lead to overconfidence.
“I think with the way we played the first two games that we have no business being overconfident,” Dailer said.
The 60 points, was one more then the Eagles scored in last year’s 59-0 victory in the Stilly Cup.
Of course, that was a different Eagles team. Quarterback Blake McPherson, tight end Bo Brummell and running back/wide receiver Colton Hordyk all graduated. This year’s Eagles team is young and must improve from week to week.
But one player who has been here the past two seasons is Elgarico. In fact, when McPherson went down with an injury two years ago, it was Elgarico who came in and finished the season — leading the Eagles to the 4A state playoffs.
The importance of that experience is not lost on Elgarico and Dailer.
“It makes all the difference,” Elgarico said. “Even last year when I was playing wide receiver it made a ton of difference. I understood the offense a lot more. Just having that experience two years ago just makes it all the much better.
“I think it’s huge for him,” Dailer said of the experience Elgarico gained two years ago. “Especially since that year I think he felt like he was put in a leadership position before he was ready. … I think to him it is probably night and day. Standing on the field then and standing on the field now, he is probably just so much more confident.”
Elgarico taking back over at quarterback meant that junior Austin Wells and senior A.J. Passalacqua, the two players who competed for the position before the season, would no longer be playing the position. Wells took the news in stride.
“I felt good about anything that I do,” said Wells, who now plays receiver. “So if it helps the team then I just want to help better the team. Anything I can do I’m down for it.”
And Wells said he noticed a change in the team with Elgarico taking the snaps.
“I think it boosted them up, thinking that we’ve got a senior back there and we are going to run,” Wells said. “And they know that I’ve played receiver before so I think it just kind of boosts the team with a senior back there leading the team.”
Elgarico’s statistics in his first week back at quarterback were most impressive rushing, but Dailer said his senior quarterback is a talented passer as well.
“He’s a great runner obviously, but he throws the ball really well,” Dailer said. “I think that as people start to crowd the box and try to shut the run game down that we are going to throw it really well. He brings a really strong arm to the field. He’s kind of got it all I think.”
Elgarico’s ability to run the football mixed in with running back John Decker’s mix of power and speed has given the Eagles a new dimension to their offense and as the Wesco North league schedule opens up this Friday against Mount Vernon, Dailer knows the race is wide open.
“We feel like anyone could win it,” Dailer said. “I always tell the guys ‘there is no one that we play that we can’t beat and there is no one that we play that can’t beat us.’ I think it’s kind of that way for everybody in the Wesco North. So yeah, I think it’s definitely wide open and I think we can be in the mix to win the Wesco North.”