Arlington’s Levi Younger escapes a tackle by Auburn Mountainview’s Elijah January during the game on Friday, Nov. 5, 2021 in Arlington, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Arlington’s Levi Younger escapes a tackle by Auburn Mountainview’s Elijah January during the game on Friday, Nov. 5, 2021 in Arlington, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Arlington rides defense to first state football berth since 2012

The Eagles get three takeaways and score a defensive TD in a 35-0 playoff win over Auburn Mountainview.

ARLINGTON — Arlington High School linebacker and senior co-captain Quintin Yon-Wagner skipped enthusiastically up and down the sideline during the first quarter while the Eagles’ offense was at work.

He and the rest of the Arlington defense were just that eager to get back on the field, because they knew they were the ones who were going to make the difference Friday night.

The Eagles’ defense played a near-perfect game, pitching an impressive shutout, and Arlington advanced to the state playoffs for the first time in nearly a decade thanks to a 35-0 victory over the Auburn Mountainview Lions in a Week 10 winner-to-state football game at Arlington High School.

“It’s a blessing,” said Yon-Wagner, who set a new Arlington school record for career tackles during the victory. “Shoutout to all the coaches and players who have worked so hard. We have a collective focus, that’s why we’re here and that’s why we’re shutting teams out.”

The Eagles did it all on defense, holding Auburn Mountainview to 94 yards, taking the ball away three times, getting five sacks, and even scoring a touchdown themselves courtesy of Ethan Martin’s 75-yard fumble return.

On a night when Arlington’s offense never got out of second gear, despite quarterback Trent Nobach throwing three touchdown passes to set a new school single-season record, the defense made sure Arlington (8-1), which is ranked No. 8 in the Associated Press 3A state poll and finished tied for first in Wesco 3A North, reached state for the first time since 2012. The Eagles learn their round-of-16 opponent after the bracket is determined Sunday.

“Oh I think they made a statement tonight,” Arlington coach Greg Dailer said about his team’s defense. “They were super excited for the opportunity to play a spread team because there’s none in our league, there’s a bunch of wing-T teams. They only get to play it in practice and they’re not allowed to hit the quarterback in practice, so they were so excited to play a spread team. We were nervous, really, because we hadn’t played a passing team and that quarterback can really sling it. I’m just so proud of them, they were so fired up and they came out that way.”

Nobach finished 23-for-30 for 149 yards, and Holden Erken added 92 yards on 15 carries for the Eagles, who won comfortably despite being flagged for 151 yards in penalties. 

Arlington limited Auburn Mountainview quarterback Kayde Bodine to 8-for-15 for 62 yards and also picked him off twice.

“Film, film, film,” was Yon-Wagner’s explanation for why Arlington’s defense was so effective Friday. “We spend hours and hours on film, we’re just going to be smarter than our opponent, knowing what they’re going to do before they do it.

“(We learned from the film that) their QB likes to run, we saw that tonight and we shut that down real quick.”

The Lions, who finished third in the North Puget Sound League’s White Division, concluded their season 6-3.

While Arlington scored 21 points in the first half, the first two quarters were about the Eagles’ defense. Arlington, with Yon-Wagner and fellow linebacker and senior co-captain Josh Snow — who set a new school record for sacks in a season Friday — leading the way, forced Auburn Mountainview to go three-and-out on each of its first four possessions, and the Lions didn’t get their first first down until 1:39 remained in the half.

Even when Auburn Mountainview was able to get a little something going with time winding down in the half, it was the Arlington D that ended up finding the end zone. Martin scooped a fumble off the turf and sprinted 75 yards down the right sideline for a TD with 20.1 seconds remaining, giving the Eagles a commanding halftime margin just when it seemed the Lions might get some points to spoil a dominating Arlington first half.

Offensively in the first half, Arlington was twice set up with good field position thanks to long Levi Younger punt returns. The first return set up Luke Brown’s 4-yard touchdown reception from Nobach on a play-action quick out to the right corner of the end zone early in the first quarter. The second return set up Younger’s own TD reception, as he dragged his toes while diving out of the right side of the end zone to haul in a 5-yard pass from Nobach on the first play of the second quarter.

Arlington put the game away in the third quarter as Nobach sent a jump ball into the end zone and allowed 6-foot-2 receiver Gage Price to reach over the defenders to haul in an 8-yard touchdown pass. Nobach completed the scoring himself in the waning seconds, sneaking in from 1 yard out with 37.1 seconds remaining to provide the final margin.

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