ARLINGTON — All season long the Arlington High School football team’s defense kept opponents locked down.
But Saturday afternoon the Mt. Spokane Wildcats found the formula, and as a result the Eagles’ season is over.
Mt. Spokane picked its way around Arlington’s vaunted defense, and the Eagles fell 38-24 in the first round of the Class 3A state playoffs.
Arlington came into Saturday allowing just 7.6 points per game, and the Eagles hadn’t allowed more than 18 points in a single contest. But the Wildcats found success both on the ground and through the air. The aerial attack was on display early, as Mt. Spokane continually found holes in the Arlington secondary on seam routes. Then late in the game, after the Eagles pulled within 24-21, the Wildcats broke out the wildcat formation and chewed up yards on the ground en route to scoring the clinching touchdown.
“They found some soft spots in our cover 2 and when we went man they were able to run it,” Arlington coach Greg Dailer said. “I think the key to the game was (Mt. Spokane quarterback Kellen Flanigan’s) ability to run. He hadn’t shown that much all year, and that was definitely the X-factor in the game. They got a lot of big first downs on that, we did not see that on film, we didn’t expect that, he was a much better runner than we thought he’d be.
“We could have played better on both sides of the ball, but they’re solid. They lost to two 4A teams that are super good and we knew it was a tough draw.”
Flanigan threw for 182 yards and a touchdown, while Blake Speer scored two rushing touchdowns to lead the 10th-seeded Wildcats (8-2), who advanced to face No. 2 Eastside Catholic in the quarterfinals.
“I think we’re balanced,” Mt. Spokane coach Terry Cloer said about why the Wildcats solved the Arlington defense. “We spread the field and we have athletes who can run the ball when they they have space. We’re able to (run and pass), and we were able to find some seams in there and make some plays.”
Arlington quarterback Trent Nobach threw an astonishing 64 times, racking up 415 yards passing, while receivers Gage Price (13 catches for 185 yards) and Levi Younger (nine catches for 122 yards and a touchdown) also had big days for the seventh-seeded Eagles (8-2). However, Arlington was mostly limited to completions underneath, the Eagles’ run game never materialized, and somehow 27 first downs only translated into 21 points.
“We stalled out a lot of drives, we had trouble running the ball,” Dailer said. “They’re so disciplined and fast and good on defense. When the field got a little shorter we just had a hard time converting.”
It was anyone’s game after Arlington took the opening kickoff of the second half and used Nobach’s 60-yard completion to Price — the only time the Eagles were able to beat Mt. Spokane deep all game — to set up Nobach’s 1-yard touchdown sneak to knot the score at 14-14.
But Mt. Spokane responded immediately. A long kickoff return by Tyler Alm set the Wildcats up at midfield, and after Flanigan twice scrambled for first downs it was Speer reversing field for a 13-yard touchdown run to restore Mt. Spokane’s lead to 21-14.
After Ethan Moczulski’s 40-yard field goal made 24-14, Arlington got a break when Andrew Bryant recovered a fumble and returned it to the Wildcat 22. That drive ended with Holden Erken plunging in from the 1 to bring the Eagles within 24-21 early in the fourth quarter.
But again the Wildcats answered on the ensuing drive, this time switching to the wildcat formation with direct snaps to running back Ethan Keene. The tactic worked as Mt. Spokane ate up yards and clock, and the Wildcats all but clinched it when, on fourth-and-2, Alm broke free on a run off right tackle and took it 22 yards for a touchdown, making it a two score game with less that four minutes remaining.
Arlington did manage to drive and get a 28-yard Aidan Raney field goal with 42.7 seconds remaining, making it a seven-point game and giving the Eagles a prayer on an onside kick. But on the attempt Mt. Spokane’s Ethan Carnell fielded the kick and raced 52 yards for a touchdown to end it as a contest.
Arlington’s first state playoff appearance since 2012 didn’t last long, but Dailer was still proud of what his team accomplished this season.
“It was a phenomenal season,” Dailer said. “We would have liked to have won a state playoff game. But just an unbelievable year, co-Wesco champs, and I think we’re going to look back on this as one of our best years.”