ARLINGTON — The Week 10 playoffs have been the Arlington High School football team’s nemesis. And that nemesis reared its ugly head again Friday night.
The Eagles once again had their season come to an end one game prior to the 3A state playoffs, falling 50-15 to the Bethel Braves at Arlington High.
Arlington last reach the state playoffs in 2012, and since then the Eagles (7-3) have come oh so close to a return trip, falling short at the play-in stage in three of the previous four years.
The Eagles, the No. 3 seed from Wesco 3A, tried to end that string this year. However Bethel (7-3), the No. 3 seed from the Pierce County League, proved too tough a foe to overcome — the Braves’ only losses this season are to O’Dea, Lakes and Lincoln, all three of which are ranked in the top six of the Associated Press 3A state poll.
The game was close at halftime, as Cole Cramer’s 38-yard field goal as time expried pulled Arlington within one score at 21-15, something the Eagles managed to accomplish despite turning the ball over three times and muffing a punt.
But Bethel dominated the second half behind its running game, as the duo of Will Latu and Josh Walker proved unstoppable. Both players eclipsed the 100-yard mark, and the pair combined for six touchdowns.
Arlington was also hindered by the absence of leading receiver Griffin Gardoski. Gardoski, who had 13 touchdown receptions this season, suffered a broken left hand during practice this week when his hand got caught in a face mask. Without the 6-foot-3 target, Arlington’s pass offense wasn’t the same.
The game was a penalty-filled contest, as Bethel was penalized 12 times for 147 yards and Arlington was flagged 11 times for 74 yards.
The decisive moment came right after halftime. Bethel, leading by six points, received the ball to start the second half and proceeded to march 73 yards on seven plays, culminating with Nate Hughes’ inch-perfect 25-yard touchdown pass to Cameron Parker in the left corner of the end zone. The Braves then converted the two-point conversion to go ahead 29-15, and Bethel was in complete control the rest of the way.
Will Latu and Josh Walker, Bethel. The Braves’ running back duo proved more than the Eagles could handle. Latu finished with 113 yards on 18 carries and scored four touchdowns as he did the bulk of the work in the second half. Walker finished with 109 yards on 19 carries and scored two TDs, most of his efforts taking place in the first half.
Nate Huges, Bethel. The Braves’ quarterback wasn’t called upon often, but he was effective when he was, going 13-for-22 for 165 yards and that beautiful TD pass to Parker.
Daylin Pierce, Arlington. Pierce produced Arlington’s play of the game in the first quarter when he tipped a pass to himself for an interception, then sprinted 70 yards down the left sideline for a touchdown that cut the deficit to 7-6 and helped keep the Eagles stay in it in the first half.
Anthony Whitis, Arlington. Arlington’s star quarterback didn’t have his best passing night, in part because of the absence of Gardoski. But he was effective with his legs, going on several Russell Wilson-like scrambles and scoring the Eagles’ only offensive TD on a 10-yard QB draw.
While Arlington’s season is done, Bethel advanced to the final 16. This year teams are being seeded for the playoffs, rather than being slotted into the bracket based on a predetermined draw. Therefore, the first-round matchups have yet to be determined. The meeting at which seeds, opponents and dates are determined is scheduled for Sunday.