Arlington’s Leyton Martin leaps over two defenders for a rushing touchdown against Ridgeline during a playoff matchup Friday at Arlington High School in Arlington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Arlington’s Leyton Martin leaps over two defenders for a rushing touchdown against Ridgeline during a playoff matchup Friday at Arlington High School in Arlington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Arlington beats Ridgeline, earns 1st win at state in 18 years

Leyton Martin accounts for five touchdowns and Arlington’s defense forces six turnovers in a 35-13 victory.

ARLINGTON — After the final whistle blew, Arlington’s players rushed head coach Greg Dailer for a spirited celebration.

The Eagles worked for this moment all season.

In Dailer’s case, it had been much longer than just this year.

The longtime Arlington High School coach has had plenty of talented teams in his 16-year tenure. He’s led the Eagles to four league titles, four state tournament appearances and 10 winning seasons. He’s also the only coach to lead a Snohomish County team to a win over powerhouse Lake Stevens over the past eight years.

But a victory in the state playoffs has proved to be the elusive benchmark Dailer’s Arlington teams haven’t been able to achieve.

Not anymore.

A special season on the south side of the Stillaguamish River became even more so Friday night.

Leyton Martin accounted for all five touchdowns, the Eagles’ defense forced six turnovers and third-seeded Arlington beat 14th-seeded Ridgeline 35-13 in the first round of the Class 3A state tournament.

“It’s a fantastic feeling,” Dailer said. “I had a hard time not getting emotional about it after the game. … This is a great group, and we’re excited about our chances going forward.”

Dailer’s players were well aware of what they helped their coach accomplish.

“It was super important” Martin said. “We’ve been talking about it for a while. We wanted to be the team to do it (for him). … It’s super special getting that one for him.”

Arlington quarterback Leyton Martin throws on the run against Ridgeline during a playoff matchup Friday, Nov. 10, 2023, at Arlington High School in Arlington, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Arlington quarterback Leyton Martin throws on the run against Ridgeline during a playoff matchup Friday, Nov. 10, 2023, at Arlington High School in Arlington, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

It’s the first state tournament win for the Eagles (11-0) since 2005 and just the second over the past 30 years. Arlington has now beaten all 11 opponents this season by over 20 points.

“We never look down on a team and we always believe we have more,” junior Kaid Hunter said. “I don’t know if we were quite thinking 11-0, but it feels great.”

Martin completed 13 of 21 passes for 191 yards and connected on touchdown passes of 5, 35 and 57 yards. He added 56 yards and two TDs on the ground.

“He’s phenomenal,” Hunter said. “He got us here.”

Jake Willis hauled in two TD passes and had a team-high 126 receiving yards, and Chase Deberry caught a TD pass. Caleb Reed paced the Eagles’ rushing attack with 101 yards on 22 carries and added four receptions for 31 yards.

When the offense faltered with three turnovers in the second half, the defense came through with four forced turnovers of its own.

“Our defense has been phenomenal all year, but the way they adjusted in the second half and got those turnovers was huge for us,” Dailer said.

Martin and the Arlington offense struck on first their drive after being set up at midfield by a solid punt return. The junior quarterback connected with Deberry on a slant for a 5-yard TD and 7-0 lead at the 6:52 mark of the first quarter.

Arlington players celebrate Chase Deberry’s first quarter touchdown against Ridgeline during a playoff matchup Friday, Nov. 10, 2023, at Arlington High School in Arlington, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Arlington players celebrate Chase Deberry’s first quarter touchdown against Ridgeline during a playoff matchup Friday, Nov. 10, 2023, at Arlington High School in Arlington, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

The Eagles’ defense forced turnovers on each of Ridgeline’s next two drives. Hunter hauled in the first of his two interceptions and Willis recovered a fumble after a sack.

After the fumble recovery, Martin linked up with Deberry for 22 yards and found Willis for near the sideline for a 35-yard catch-and-run and 14-0 lead with 5 seconds left in the first.

“It was really important to get a fast start, especially because we went into the wind to the start the first quarter,” Dailer said. “We still drove down the field and got a couple scores. We felt really good about that.”

The Falcons (8-3) answered back with a seven-play, 72-yard scoring drive behind six completions from junior quarterback Landon Garner. He completed passes to four different receivers and finished off the drive with a 1-yard strike to senior Easton Amend to cut the deficit to 14-7 early in the second.

The Eagles wasted little time responding and needed just four plays to regain a two-score lead thanks to a 57-yard TD connection between Martin and Willis with 7:44 left in the half.

Arlington threatened to score again late in the quarter, but Reed’s fumble inside the Ridgeline 10 forced the Eagles to settle for a 21-7 lead at the break.

After the defense forced a three-and-out, the Eagles blocked a punt and senior Nathan Mathieson recovered it inside the Falcons’ 10. Three players later, Martin made an acrobatic leap over a defender to finish off a 7-yard TD run for a 28-7 lead with 6:31 to go in the third.

Garner’s second TD pass to Amend capped a 66-yard TD drive that pulled Ridgeline within 28-13. Hunter picked off the extra-point attempt after a bad snap forced a desperation pass from the Falcons.

The teams traded turnovers on each of their next two possessions. Ridgeline junior Brayden Allen intercepted Martin twice, including a well-played jump on a post route, but the Falcons couldn’t capitalize. Willis forced a fumble on a sack recovered by senior Parker Kinney and senior Bookie Cramer recovered another Garner fumble.

Arlington senior lineman Jeremy Fleming sacks Ridgeline’s Landon Garner and forces a fumble during a playoff matchup Friday, Nov. 10, 2023, at Arlington High School in Arlington, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Arlington senior lineman Jeremy Fleming sacks Ridgeline’s Landon Garner and forces a fumble during a playoff matchup Friday, Nov. 10, 2023, at Arlington High School in Arlington, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

After Cramer’s recovery, Reed broke off a 31-yard run to put Arlington in the red zone, and Martin capped the drive with a 5-yard TD run to go up 35-13 with 5:08 left.

After nearly getting an interception two plays earlier, Hunter sealed the win with an interception late in the fourth quarter.

“People haven’t really tested this year because they know how good he is back there;” Dailer said of Hunter. “When you do it, he’s going to make you pay, and he played good tonight.”

Ridgeline, which opened in 2021, was making its first state appearance in just its third year of existence. The Falcons went 4-16 in their first two seasons before breaking out for eight wins this fall.

The Eagles will host sixth-seeded Bellevue in the state quarterfinals 1 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 18.

“I’m just so proud of these boys,” Dailer said, “and we’re happy to have another home playoff game next week.”

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