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Snohomish sneaks past Arlington in thriller
Brandon Gunter simply ran out of miracles for the Arlington Eagles in their football home opener against Snohomish.
Gunters accurate passing and nimble running made for an exciting game, but the towering Snohomish line made sure that Arlington was under constant pressure all night long. The Eagles nearly pulled out a monumental upset against the heavily favored Snohomish side, losing 29-25.
The Sept. 14 contest got going in a positive way for Arlington as Brian Roy returned the opening kick nearly to the 50-yard-line. On the first play from scrimmage RB Michael Keating sprung free into the secondary and chugged 38 more yards before a Panther safety tugged him down in the red-zone. The Eagles made good on their excellent opening sequence, Gunter finding Jerad Barber moments later for a 7-yard TD strike. A converted extra point made the score 7-0 in favor of Arlington.
Snohomish took the ensuing kickoff and marched right back down the field, knocking off positive yardage on every offensive down. The undersized Eagles line fought to hold their ground but often they were only able to drag Panther running backs down after four or five yard gains.
As Snohomish calmly chewed up yardage with their running machine, Arlington nearly caught a huge break. The Panthers fumbled a ball on the Eagle 15-yard line, or at least appeared to fumble, and Arlington scooped up the loose ball. The head referee ruled the play dead before the fumble, though it was a questionable decision at best. Snohomish capitalized on the break and scored a touchdown two plays later to pull within 7-6.
Snohomish missed their extra point try and after the kickoff once again Arlington found themselves with exceptional field position. Marcus Dolan returned the ball out to midfield, setting up another short field for the offense to work with. What started promisingly with a Brad McPherson 8-yard run followed by a healthy dose of Keating up the gut, ended in a third-down sack and punt from the Eagle offense.
Snohomish took over the ball deep in their own end and once again Arlingtons defense appeared to create a turnover that the officiating crew ruled against. Cornerback Chris Myers cleanly stripped a Snohomish back of the football and held the ball up for the referee to look at. Mysteriously, a whistle had blown before the play and the fumble was overruled.
Snohomish again capitalized on their stroke of fortune by going in for their second touchdown of the night. Arlingtons defensive coordinator, despite his shouting, could not make his lineman any bigger as Snohomish continued to pound away on the ground.
Arlington failed to make anything of their next opportunity with the football, and they punted away to the Panthers. This series they got an inspired effort from their defensive line and linebacking crew, led by Jurrell Frank and Greg Holsworth. The Eagles forced Snohomish into their first punt.
Jerad Barber zig-zagged across the field during the punt return, zipping past the Panther pursuit to the tune of a 40-yard gain. He set the offense up once again in excellent field position, and this time Arlington made the most of it. McPherson barreled through the line for ten yards, then Keating spun his way forward for another ten. Barber himself got into the act with a 16-yard reception on a crossing route. Gunter then played the role of escape artist on a rollout pass. He ducked the Panther rush and threw on the run to a sprawled out Barber in the end-zone for six points. Arlington failed to convert their point-after this time and trailed 14-13.
The half ended 14-13 but Arlington drew first blood in the second half as they got more inspired play from Gunter. The QB converted a big third down on the Eagles second drive of the second half by finding D.J. Lockwood alone in a soft Panther zone for a 12-yard completion. Gunter then rushed for 16 yards down to the Snohomish 5 yard line. Keating scored standing up on the next play to put Arlington back in front 19-14.
Snohomish remained undeterred and went right back to their ground game on offense. Arlington did not have the size up front to push back the massive Panther front line and nine plays later the score was 22-19 in favor of the visitors.
The Eagles managed another impressive drive led by Gunter to threaten again. The senior quarterback ran several option plays to great success while driving Arlington back down the field. He also found Barber on a 20-yard completion down to the Snohomish 18-yard line. After three consecutive running plays Arlington was facing 4th and 1 from the Panther 10-yard line. Instead of electing for the field goal attempt, the Eagles went for it and were stuffed, a turnover on downs.
Snohomishs first play from scrimmage following the change of possession resulted in a 90-yard touchdown run. It looked like a backbreaking play, but the Arlington sideline stayed positive. Trailing 29-19 with only five minutes remaining, the odds of victory were slim.
Gunter brought the offense back into the huddle and on their first play from scrimmage he found D.J. Lockwood along the left sideline. Lockwood overpowered a cornerback and trucked down the field, rumbling all the way to the Panther 1-yard line. Keating scored on the next play to bring the Eagles within 29-25.
The Eagles would get no closer. After an impressive defensive stand, Arlington got the ball back thanks to a Panther punt with only a few minutes remaining. They started out well on the drive but an odd referees decision on an intentional grounding call put the Eagles in a 4th-and-a country mile position and Gunter simply did not have another miracle saved up.
Coach Tim Tramp was proud of his teams effort and had nothing but good things to say after the game.
We ran out of room to make a play there at the end. You can see how big Snohomish is and how that affected the outcome. I think were going to have to give Brandon more opportunities to make plays in the future, he did a bit of everything tonight.
Arlingtons next game is against Everett on Sept. 21.