ARLINGTON — Arlington’s stellar season-long performance on the defensive end has helped pave the way to the Eagles’ postseason success and run into the Class 3A state football quarterfinals.
The third-seeded Eagles (11-0) square off with No. 6 Bellevue (8-2) on Saturday in their first quarterfinal appearance in 18 years at 1 p.m. at Arlington High School, and Arlington looks to add another strong defensive showing to its lengthy list.
The Eagles defense has run a tight ship all year, allowing just 10.4 points per game on the season and no more than 18 in a single game. They’ve also held teams to single-digit scoring five times.
With a looming battle against the Wolverines’ patented Wing-T scheme, featuring senior fullback Carson Rubin and senior wingback Ryken Moon, Arlington’s ability to slow the run game will be tested thoroughly with a spot in the state semifinals on the line.
But when it comes to reading Wing-T setups, the Eagles have collected plenty of experience over the years within their own league.
“It’s gonna be a battle,” longtime head coach Greg Dailer said. “Obviously, they’re an excellent football team and they’ve been doing it that way for a long time. I think that if anyone has a chance to slow them down, it might be us, just because we’ve played so much (against the) Wing-T. We see it a lot in our conference, and they don’t do it as well as Bellevue, but we feel about as good as we can about our chances of slowing it down.”
Wesco 3A North opponents Ferndale, Oak Harbor and Stanwood all used a Wing-T formation this fall. Marysville Getchell ran a similar option-based Wish Bone scheme. And, until last season, Marysville Pilchuck ran the Slot-T, a variation of the Wing-T, for many years, including during its run to the 3A semifinals in 2021.
“I feel we have a lot more preparation than a lot of these other teams Bellevue has played against,” senior defensive end Jeremy Fleming said. “We just have a lot of experience in whole against Wing-T teams. We’ve game-planned for so many different styles of it. Obviously, they’re a skilled team and they’ve got a lot of bigger dudes, big guys up front. But, if we stay true to what we know … it should be a good game.”
After losing standout senior safety and wide receiver Jacoby Falor to a season-ending leg injury midway through the season, Arlington has more than maintained its dominance on defensive end of the field. Secondary members Jake Willis, Caiden Patterson and Chase Deberry have all stepped up to fill voids left in his absence.
“We’ve missed him on both sides of the ball. He’s a huge target for us at receiver and he’s our stud safety,” Dailer said, “but it takes the whole group. It takes 11 and not just one. We really miss him, but the guys have really stepped up and rallied.”
Arlington’s persistency on defense has been a joint effort throughout the campaign, and it has allowed the Eagles to provide boosts on the scoreboard with their big-play ability and takeaway potential.
The Eagles forced six turnovers in last week’s 35-13 victory over Ridgeline in the first round, including two interceptions from two-way junior Kaid Hunter. In Week 6, senior linebacker Kobi Spady recorded two of his three defensive scores this season. Fleming also has a defensive score this year.
Their efforts this season haven’t gone unnoticed. Seven Arlington defenders earned selections to Wesco 3A North’s all-league first and second teams. Fleming, a 6-foot-2, 220-pounder, was a first team All-Wesco 3A North choice and has been one of the main leaders manning down the frontline with fellow first-team defensive lineman junior Levi Reid. Linebackers Spady and senior Bookie Cramer and defensive back Hunter were also named first team all-league. Willis and Deberry earned second-team nods, and senior linebacker Nolan Welch-Downing has been another key contributor while earning an honorable mention.
Perhaps just as important as the talent, the cohesiveness of the unit.
“A lot of it has been just how the pieces fit in the puzzle, how we work together,” Fleming said. “ … All in all, we just have a whole bunch of dogs all around the field.”