ARLINGTON — At halftime, Arlington Eagles coach Greg Dailer pulled his team together and delivered a message of perseverance.
“I told them that adversity reveals character and that we were going to be in some adverse situations in the second half,” Dailer said, “and they really revealed their character.”
Trailing by two scores with 5:46 to play, Arlington rallied.
Eagles quarterback Anthony Whitis engineered back-to-back scoring drives sandwiched around a defensive three-and-out to lift Arlington to a thrilling 37-34 Wesco 3A North win on a rainy Friday night at Arlington High School.
Whitis, who had nearly 200 passing yards at halftime, was shut out most of the second half as Arlington trailed 34-22 late in the game. But the senior quarterback tossed a 12-yard touchdown pass to Joey Stretch with 4:29 to play and followed with a game-winning 5-yard TD run with 2:49 to go.
The win keeps Arlington (3-1, 2-1 Wesco 3A North) right in the hunt near the halfway mark of Wesco 3A North play. The victory came a week after an emotional Stilly Cup win over rival Stanwood. The loss was the first conference defeat for Ferndale (1-3, 1-1).
Anthony Whitis, Arlington — The Eagles senior quarterback completed 16-of-29 passes for 292 yards, threw three touchdowns, an interception and also ran for 49 yards and a score. Nothing was more important, though, than Whitis’ final two drives. The first was six-play, 65-yard drive. The game-winner was a quick two-play, 46-yard drive.
Joey Stretch, Arlington — Stretch caught five passes for 119 yards and hauled in two of Whitis’ three touchdown passes. His most impressive catch was a 57-yarder in which the senior wrestled the ball away from Ferndale defenders at the ball’s highest point.
Quinton Yon-Wagner, Arlington — Dailer revealed four of his defensive linemen were injured during last week’s game, and that was bad news facing a run-dominant Ferndale team. Yon-Wagner, an underclassman, played a great game along the defensive front. He made at least three tackles for loss in the first half and was a factor throughout.
Gader Fox, Ferndale — Fox was an absolute bruiser. Playing the fullback in Ferndale’s Wing-T offense, Fox’s work wasn’t pretty, but he was effective plowing through the middle of Arlington’s front. He finished with 144 yards and four touchdowns on 34 carries
“We lost four D-linemen last week, so we were down to just three, so our freshman linebacker was playing D-line. He did fantastic. At the end we had guys playing D-line that had never played before. I’m just proud of those guys to play out of position, get down there, take a beating and do the best that they can. It was pretty amazing the effort they put in tonight.” — Arlington coach Greg Dailer
“That’s just the competitor in me. There wasn’t a chance in the world that I wasn’t going to score that ball. As soon as I saw that open lane, the competitor in me told me to … dive through and put my body on the line, because these guys are putting their body on the line for me the entire game, so I might as well put one out for them on the last play of the game.” — Arlington quarterback Anthony Whitis on his body-sacrificing, game-winning touchdown run
Ferndale’s and Arlington’s offenses couldn’t be more different.
The Golden Eagles appeared to run the same four-to-six plays the entire night and featured heavily running backs Gader Fox and Bryan Ebe. Fox and Ebe, who finished with 133 rushing yards, combined for 52 carries. In contrast, Arlington was credited with 22 rushing attempts.
The Eagles featured Whitis’ arm and the pass-catching ability of Stretch (119 receiving yards), Griffin Gardoski (106) and Dylan Simmons (61).
PLAY OF THE GAME
Whitis’ 5-yard QB option-keeper was impressive largely for the his courage to score knowing he’d take a huge hit at the goal line. But Arlington’s big play came from running back Daylin Pierce, who finished with eight carries for 110 yards and a score. Seventy-three of those yards came on one carry.
Arlington was trailing 27-16 late in the third quarter when Pierce received a handoff around the left side. Pierce raced to the sideline and outran Ferndale’s linebackers and secondary to the end zone.