Arlington High School quarterback Anthony Whitis defines what it means to be a true competitor.
Whether it’s on the football field, the basketball court, the ping pong table or behind the sticks of an XBox controller, there’s one thing the Eagles’ senior hates to do — lose.
“We could lose to the No. 1 team in the state and I’m gonna be mad, because I feel that we could’ve beat them,” Whitis said. “Any losing, I take it all the same. No matter if it’s the best team or a team that we shouldn’t have lost to.”
That fiery competitiveness didn’t always translate in the most beneficial ways for the team.
“When he was younger, it would come out in a negative way sometimes,” Eagles coach Greg Dailer said. “and he’s really turned the corner there in being a positive leader and staying positive with his teammates.”
It’s something Whitis, a first-team All-Wesco 3A North selection in 2017, has made a point of improving upon entering his final high school season.
“I feel that this year I’ve kind of stepped into a role that when everyone looks at me and I’m up, they’re up. If I’m down, they’re down,” Whitis said. “I think that this year I’ve really learned to stay consistent in being up and not allowing myself to be down, because everyone follows that. … I think the biggest thing is just staying calm and being able to put myself and the players around me in a good situation to succeed.”
Which will be important for an Arlington squad that lost six of its eight All-Wesco 3A North selections from 2017.
“It’s his offense now,” Dailer said. “He’s the main guy now. Last year, we had some strong leadership on the offense (with) Campbell Hudson (and Cooper) Cummings. So he didn’t have to be that guy, but he’s definitely been that guy this year.”
It helps that the Eagles’ standout signal-caller is obsessive, according to Dailer, in his preparation and takes pride in knowing not only his job but everyone else’s around him.
“We have a ‘Quarterback 10 Commandments,’” Dailer said, “and one of them is to know the offense as well or better than Coach Dailer — and he lives that. Nowadays he can correct me sometimes.”
That level of preparation and a high football IQ helped Whitis lead the Eagles to one of the program’s biggest regular-season wins, a 54-28 upset of Wesco 4A powerhouse Lake Stevens on Sept. 8. The victory snapped the Vikings’ 26-game regular-season winning streak. Whitis said the game is probably the highlight of his football career.
“It was just such a big thing for everyone,” he said. “It had been a while since it happened, and they’re obviously a very talented program.”
The win against Lake Stevens was just the first matchup of many against tough teams on Arlington’s 2017 schedule. Unfortunately for the Eagles, those other games didn’t go quite the same.
Arlington got rolled by Ferndale 41-13 two weeks later, then saw a 14-point lead over 4A state quarterfinalist Graham-Kapowsin disappear and turn into a 14-point loss the next week.
The Eagles got back on track with back-to-back conference wins, including a 28-27 comeback win over rival Stanwood in a wild finish, but fell short the following week to Oak Harbor 13-7 in a rain-soaked game that went into three overtimes.
Then Whitis combined for five TDs through the air and on the ground in Week 9 to lead his team to a 38-35 win over Squalicum and clinch a Week 10 playoff game, which the team lost to eventual 3A state title runner-up Rainier Beach.
So Whitis got a taste of it all last year: big wins, big losses, gutty performances that his team came out on top of and ones in which they fell short.
“I think those are all learning experiences for all our guys, but especially our quarterback,” Dailer said. “He can take away how we were ready to play against certain teams and how we weren’t against certain teams.”
Whitis got his first chance to play quarterback on the varsity team as a sophomore, and since then there’s never been a doubt who will line up under center on Friday nights.
“We were having a little trouble in the passing game (in 2016),” Dailer said. “Our best receiver was playing quarterback, and Anthony had some really good throws in practice leading up to (his first game). So we plugged him in there against Stanwood and he comes in and throws a touchdown on the first drive. He’s been our starter ever since.”
Whitis is also the point guard for the varsity basketball team, earning first-team all-conference honors as a junior, and his role as a facilitator on the hardwood is something both he and Dailer see as a benefit in football.
“He naturally sees the field well, and I think his basketball background helps him out with that a little bit,” Dailer said. “I think both are leadership roles. So he spends a lot of the time all around the year in that role, which is good for a quarterback.”
Whitis looks up to his grandparents Mark and Debbie Whitis, who adopted him and his two sisters shortly after he was born. They’ve raised him ever since.
“They’ve always taken a role as my parents for me,” Whitis said.
He also said youth football coaches Mike Hawthrone, Bret DeBerry and Tony Gutierrez helped him along the way.
“They’ve always kept me under their wing and been more of a father figure to me, kept my head straight and been on top of things,” Whitis said.
After high school, Whitis hopes to continue his athletic career. He’s drawn interest from Eastern Washington University, Central Washington University and the University of San Diego on the gridiron, and Pacific University and Pacific Lutheran University on the basketball court.
He’s leaning towards pursuing a degree in criminal justice.
But before he decides where and what to study after graduation, Arlington’s two-sport standout, who threw for 2,226 yards and 25 touchdowns and rushed for four more scores as a junior, hopes to lead his Eagles to a Wesco 3A North title.