BELLINGHAM — The Arlington Eagles ensured themselves a free Saturday.
Faced with the prospect of a weekend three-team “Kansas City tiebreaker,” the Eagles took the early lead, overcame a third-quarter deficit and knocked off the Squalicum Eagles 38-35 Thursday night at Civic Stadium.
The Eagles (6-3 overall, 4-2 Wesco 3A North) clinched the No. 3 seed from the Wesco 3A North Division. Squalicum fell to 2-4 and 5-4 overall.
“We did that last year and we sure didn’t want to do that again,” said Arlington coach Greg Dailer, referring to the tiebreaker. “We couldn’t focus on that, but now that we’re done with this game, yes, thank God we don’t have to play on Saturday.”
Anthony Whitis threw for four touchdowns and rushed for another to lead the Arlington offense.
But it was sophomore Cade Younger’s kickoff return immediately following Squalicum’s first lead of the game that reclaimed the lead for the Eagles for good.
Squalicum had taken its first lead of the game at 28-25 on a 12-yard scoring scamper by Spencer Lloyd at 2:29 in the third quarter.
But Younger took the ensuing kickoff 90 yards as Arlington reclaimed the lead at 32-28.
“We had great blocking on that play and it worked when we needed it,” Younger said. “That double wedge seems to work great, and I just had to run fast and get good blocks.”
On Squalicum’s subsequent possession, Payton Bastien returned a Storm fumble deep into Squalicum territory, and Whitis kept for the 3-yard touchdown run on the next play to push Arlington’s lead to 38-28.
The Storm once again pulled within a field goal on Lloyd’s 3-yard touchdown plunge at 5:52 in the fourth to make it 38-35, but that was how it ended as Arlington will enter the playoffs on a positive note.
“To have a win at the end of the regular season going into the playoffs, coming off a win and off three emotional games, is really nice,” Dailer said.
The Eagles led 19-14 at the half and marched 56 yards on the opening possession of the third quarter to extend their lead to 25-14 on a 7-yard touchdown pass to Jacob Hubbard.
Triston Smith then pulled the Storm within a field goal at 25-22 with a 3-yard touchdown run and successful two-point conversion.
Lloyd’s run gave Squalicum its first lead and set up Younger’s return.
Early on it looked like the Eagles would run away with the contest. Arlington went 65 yards in three plays with a 53-yard completion from Whitis to Hubbard setting an 8-yard scoring toss to Hubbard at 9:34 in the first.
Whitis then completed touchdown passes of 30 and 37 yards to Campbell Hudson on Arlington’s next two possessions. The second touchdown drive included a 14-yard pickup on a fake punt, and the third came after a Tucker Bovard interception as the Eagles took a 19-0 lead at 2:59 in the first quarter.
But Squalicum answered. Quarterback Ja’Lique Martin put the Storm on the board with a 7-yard keeper at 1:06. Then, on the ensuing kickoff the Eagles fumbled on an attempted reverse and Squalicum recovered at the Arlington 18.
Martin’s 2-yard scoring run and ensuing PAT cut Arlington’s once-formidable lead to 19-14.
That’s how it remained at the half.