STANWOOD — The past two Stilly Cups have seen Arlington roll over its archrival.
Friday night, the Eagles had to work a little bit harder to defeat Stanwood.
After jumping out to an early 27-0 lead, Arlington held off a late charge by the Spartans, who got to within six points in the fourth quarter before the Eagles pulled away in the rivalry game to win 34-21 Friday night at Bob Larson Stadium at Stanwood High School.
“Our season could’ve gone really downhill if we didn’t win this one,” Arlington head coach Greg Dailer said. “One of our main goals is to win the Stilly Cup. If nothing else, we want to get that one.”
Arlington (1-2 overall), which got its first win of the season, scored the game’s first 27 points thanks to two touchdown runs by senior Max Gray. Usually a receiver, Gray lined up at quarterback several times in a new package for Arlington.
Getting the ball directly, Gray ripped off touchdown runs of 43 and 12 yards in the Eagles’ first two drives.
“He’s a great kid. A great athlete,” Dailer said. “He’ll do anything. I told him we might need him at quarterback and he said, ‘All right!’”
In the second quarter, Gray showed off his arm with a 26-yard touchdown pass to Micah Miller.
“We installed it this week,” Gray said. “We wanted a different look. I was just going to run. It was so weird. I’ve never played quarterback. (The throw) was crazy. I was like, ‘Coach, let me throw one! Let me throw one!’”
A fumble return by Saige Taylor gave the Eagles a 27-0 lead. Then Stanwood’s offense got rolling.
Right before halftime, the Spartans got a 22-yard touchdown pass from Drew Wright to Connor Chitwood to make the score 27-7 with 11 seconds remaining in the quarter.
Stanwood started pounding the ball at Arlington in the second half, resulting in Jayce Wheeler and Wright each getting four-yard touchdown runs to make the score 27-21.
For the Eagles, it was looking like it could be a repeat of last week when Oak Harbor came from behind to defeat Arlington in the fourth quarter.
“It was a little scary,” Gray said. “You think of what happened against Oak Harbor and Marysville (Pilchuck). They kept coming back. I don’t think we were ever scared, but maybe a little nervous.”
Down six, Stanwood forced two incomplete passes by Arlington and got the ball back with 4:49 to play in the game. On fourth and seven, Wright was sacked giving the ball back to Arlington.
A few plays later, on third-and-10, the Eagles converted a 33-yard pass from Cam Scrimgeour to Gray to get the ball to the 12-yard line. That led to a four-yard touchdown run by Jared Alskog that put the game away.
“The guys held tough,” Dailer said. “The defense held strong. ? It’s nice to get a win before we enter league play. It seems like the Wesco North (3A league) is wide open.”
Gray finished the game with 10 carries for 99 yards and two touchdowns. He also went 2-for-2 passing for 27 yards and a touchdown, prompting Dailer to make a prediction for future Eagles’ games.
“We’re going to expand that (Gray) package,” Dailer said.
Alskog added 55 yards on 13 carries and a touchdown and Scrimgeour, Arlington’s other quarterback, finished 7-for-16 for 85 yards.
Arlington won the Stilly Cup last year by a large margin, 60-0, and had defeated Stanwood (1-2) by a combined score of 119-0 in the past two Stilly Cups.
This game appeared to be another rout — which Dailer enjoys — before the waning moments of the first half.
“If I had the choice, as far as sleeping at night and taking years off my life, I prefer 60-0,” Dailer said. “But as far as the team and getting better and sharper, this is definitely better for us.”
The Spartans were led by Wright, who completed eight of 19 passes for 150 yards and threw a touchdown and an interception. Wright also ran the ball six times for 34 yards and a touchdown.
The usual starter behind center, Wright began the game on the sideline with Chad Niven taking snaps at quarterback. Niven ran nine times for 28 yards and completed three of seven passes for 14 yards with an interception.
“We’re challenging the quarterback position like every other position,” first-year Stanwood head coach Dave Telford said. “We’ve got two quarterbacks that are good football players and good athletes. We’re making them compete to play.”
Kyle Jackels led the Stanwood rushing attack, which featured six different players rushing the ball. Jackels ran the ball 14 times for 66 yards with 48 of those coming in the second half.
“They’re tough,” Dailer said. “They’ve got some big, strong cats. ? Telford’s a good coach and he does some creative things. They’re a tough team.”
Despite the loss, Telford said this was “by far the best game we’ve played this season.” He was proud of the way his team responded to adversity and didn’t give up after falling behind early at home.
“In the past when Arlington’s gotten up on us it hasn’t been pretty,” Telford said. “? We preached all week long, whether it was 10 minutes into the game, four minutes into the game or halftime, whatever it was the game wasn’t over until 48 minutes were up.”
At Bob Larson Stadium
Arlington 14 13 0 7 — 34
Stanwood 0 7 7 7 — 21
A—Max Gray 43 run (Anthony Parra kick)
A—Gray 12 run (Parra kick)
A—Micah Miller 26 pass from Gray (Parra kick)
A—Saige Taylor 20 fumble (kick failed)
S—Connor Chitwood 22 pass from Drew Wright (Alex Esary kick)
S—Jayce Wheeler 4 run (Esary kick)
S—Wright 4 run (Esary kick)
A—Jared Alskog 4 run (Parra kick)
Records—Arlington 1-2 overall. Stanwood 1-2.