By Scott M. Johnson Herald Writer
EVERETT — On a night when he had carried the load for 47½ minutes, Arlington quarterback Skylor Elgarico had one last burst in his legs late Friday night.
This time, he carried a Mariner defender for the clinching touchdown.
Elgarico’s 2-yard score on fourth-and-goal, which came after he ran a few valuable seconds off the clock, gave Arlington a 35-21 win over the Marauders, clinched a playoff berth and capped off quite a night for the senior receiver-turned-quarterback.
Elgarico ran 27 times for 180 yards — 19 of those carries and 152 yards came after halftime — and ran for two touchdowns, while throwing a third. And that doesn’t include his 66-yard touchdown run in the third quarter that was called back due to a holding penalty.
“He played a great game,” said Arlington coach Greg Dailer, who moved Elgarico from receiver to quarterback three games into the season to get the ball in the 6-foot-2 senior’s hands more.
For Elgarico, the most important thing to come out of the performance was the postseason berth the Eagles clinched with the win. Arlington (4-5 overall, 3-2 in the Western Conference North Division) will face perennial power Kentwood next weekend.
“Hopefully we can get an upset,” Elgarico said. “We’re just happy to be playing. … (Friday night’s game against Mariner) was do-or-die for us.”
Elgarico did all that he could do to keep Arlington’s season alive. He had a hand in 262 of the Eagles’ 320 yards of total offense and opened both halves with quick-strike scoring drives. He also finished off the win with a nifty run to the left corner, which started with Elgarico burning time off the clock as he danced in the backfield before bowling through a would-be tackler and into the end zone with 22 seconds remaining.
And yet the most important play of the night may have come when Elgarico was on the sideline.
After the quarterback had opened the second half with a 41-yard run to tie the score at 14, teammate Austin Wells forced a fumble that Arlington linebacker Jacob Johnson scooped up and returned 73 yards for a touchdown. That gave the Eagles a 21-14 lead midway through the third quarter, and Arlington never looked back.
Defense was actually a huge part of the victory, especially in the second half. Nate Lewis, Nathan Kehler and Johnson all had drive-killing sacks for the Eagles, while Jayden Jira set up an insurance touchdown when he tackled the Mariner punter for a 17-yard loss late in the third quarter.
“The defense did great,” Elgarico said. “They did awesome tonight.”
Mariner did have its opportunities, due in large part to a 139-yard rushing performance from running back Joshua Williamson, who had to switch uniform numbers at halftime because his No. 9 jersey was torn. The Marauders’ most impressive offensive possession may have been a 75-yard touchdown drive midway through the fourth quarter to cut Arlington’s lead to seven points. Quarterback Dan Nadat rolled left, then threw back to his right for a 21-yard touchdown pass to Tommy Duong — the tight end’s only reception of the night — to pull Mariner within 28-21 with 4:34 remaining.
Arlington then turned to a predictable weapon to help out the game away. Elgarico carried the ball eight consecutive times, driving the ball 55 yards to the Mariner 1-yard line while killing four minutes and all three of Mariner’s timeouts. After teammate Jon Rabourn was stopped for a one-yard loss with 30 seconds left, Elgarico took his final snap and danced around before putting the game away with his second rushing touchdown of the night. If not for the holding penalty that wiped out a 66-yard score, Elgarico would have had 130 rushing yards and two touchdowns in the fourth quarter alone.
While Arlington celebrated the win and subsequent playoff berth, the Mariner players felt the sting of just missing out on the state playoffs. The Marauders (5-4, 3-3) needed a win if they wanted to play a meaningful game next weekend.
“At the beginning of the season, everybody has a goal to make the playoffs,” Mariner coach John Ondriezek said. “We had an opportunity to be there, and that’s always tough when you don’t get it done.”
At Goddard Stadium
A—Jayden Jira 7 pass from Skylor Elgarico (Anthony Parra kick), 7:32
M—Joshua Williamson 1 run (Malcolm Manson kick), 3:52
M—Williamson 7 run (Manson kick), 8:11
A—Elgarico 41 run (Parra kick), 11:36
A—Jacob Johnson 72 fumble recovery return (Parra kick), 7:24
A—John Decker 1 run (Parra kick), 10:08
M—Tommy Duong 21 pass from Dan Nadat (Manson kick), 4:34
A—Elgarico 2 run (Parra kick), 0:22
Records—Arlington 4-6 overall. Mariner 5-4.