MARYSVILLE — Arlington is aware it can score points.
But could it stop opposing offenses as the temperature slowly creeps down and October turns into November? The Eagles believe they have their answer, if Friday’s result is any indication.
Arlington (6-2, 4-2 Wesco 3A North) slowed down the Marysville Pilchuck Wing-T rushing attack and dispatched the Tomahawks, 17-10, to clinch the No. 2 seed in Wesco 3A North.
“It’s so exciting for our defense,” Arlington head coach Greg Dailer said. “I think this is the first game of the year we’ve won solely on defense.”
Sophomore linebacker Michael Tsoukalas was a breakout performer on the defensive side of the ball, recovering a fumble and sacking Marysville Pilchuck quarterback Jake Elwood on fourth-and-10 with the Tomahawks in Eagles’ territory.
“He’s not a sophomore. I mean, he is a sophomore, but it seems like he’s a man inside of that body,” quarterback Anthony Whitis said. “He’s a huge kid and it’s a huge confidence to play the way he did. He goes out on that field and no one would guess he’s a sophomore by the way he plays. He’s got a head like a senior and he plays exactly like one.”
There’s been a learning curve for the first-year linebacker, but it’s finally clicking.
“Huge growth. Huge,” Whitis said. “At first he was just hopping around going backward, and now he’s straight downhill, making his reads. When he comes downhill and makes his reads, he’s really, really tough.
“It wasn’t until second half at Everett (last week) he started to put it all together.”
After relinquishing 28 points in the first half, the Eagles shut out the Seagulls in the second en route to a 49-28 rout.
At the center of Arlington’s sudden defensive renaissance is a corp of young inside linebackers — Tsoukalas, freshman Quintin Yon-Wagner and junior Kirahy Meyers.
“At half … (our coaches) just yelled at us, you have to make your reads,” Tsoukalas said. “Right in the second half we started doing it. They told us to many too many times, and we just did it.”
The Eagles used their game script to their advantage, scoring touchdowns on their first drives of each half. Anthony Whitis reached the ball over on a 1-yard quarterback keeper at the 8:16 mark of the first quarter and Whitis connected with senior wideout Griffin Gardowski with 8:51 remaining in the third.
It’s all Arlington’s prolific offense could muster — it entered Saturday scoring 31 points per game — outside of a 29-yard field goal from Cole Cramer in the fourth quarter.
“It’s just the gameplan,” Whitis said. “We didn’t execute very well, we had a lot of dropped passes, we had a lot of penalties and we’re just killing ourselves with all of these things. I think when we start playing disciplined … it will all pan out the way it should.”
The Eagles’ defense had one major hiccup on Justice Jordan’s 72-yard touchdown catch from Elwood in the third. But the overall resolve on defense was a major win.
“It’s just such a good confidence booster,” Whitis said. “They’ve really struggled in certain games, but they really rose to the occasion. They’ve been giving up so many points and our offense has been scoring so much. But I think this is huge confidence booster for us.”
Arlington moved up to the No. 2 seed in Wesco 3A North after Squalicum defeated Oak Harbor, 43-40, meaning the Eagles will play Shorewood, the second-place finisher in the Wesco 3A South, in a crossover game next week. Marysville Pilchuck slid down to fifth and ends its playoff chances with the loss and Ferndale’s 56-26 win over Stanwood on Friday.