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Cup comes home to Arlington
ARLINGTON A well-played football game between two highly motivated teams ended in victory for the Arlington Eagles. Using a bruising ground game to control the line of scrimmage, Arlington beat the Stanwood Spartans 34-14 to reclaim the Stilly Cup and improve their record to 2-3.
The game started with a flash for the Eagles as middle linebacker Greg Holsworth fielded a short kickoff by Stanwood and sprang through the oncoming wall of tacklers to reach the Stanwood 40-yard line. The Eagles did not waste their excellent field position, reeling off eight running plays including several long dashes by Michael Keating. Keating punched the ball into the end-zone from six yards out for the games first score.
The Arlington defense then came on and forced a quick punt from the Spartans and again Arlington made the most of good field position. Consecutive running plays behind the dominant offensive line, including one 45-yard draw play by quarterback Brandon Gunter, put Arlington back in the red-zone. Chris Myers swept to the right side from 20 yards out to give Arlington their second scoring drive and a quick 13-0 lead.
Coach Tim Tramp smelled blood and tried a bit of trickery on the ensuing kickoff. Instead of kicking the ball deep and taking his chances with the stout Eagle defense, Tramp elected to sneak in an onside kick. The kick was well disguised and nearly recovered by Arlington, but an alert Stanwood lineman fell on it just in time.
What could have been a mistake turned into another opportunity for the Eagle defense to showcase their speed. After stuffing three consecutive run plays the Eagles intercepted a fourth-down pass. Myers returned the ball back to the Arlington 43-yard line.
The Eagles offense could not capitalize on the turnover and gave the ball back to Stanwood on downs. The Spartans then received a jolt of life as Ryan Norman took a pitch 55 yards on the ground to cut the lead to 13-7.
But before Stanwood could get too comfortable, Gunter led Arlington on a 72-yard scoring drive. Jerad Barber made a crucial third-down catch to keep the drive alive and the big play came when Gunter followed his center and right guard up through the middle of the defense on a 50-yard touchdown scramble. The run made the score 21-7 at halftime, with Arlington in full control.
The second half was more Eagles with Gunter leading the team down the field on a series of running plays for a 28-7 lead. After a Spartan score narrowed the gap, the Eagles put together and 11-play, 60-yard drive to clinch the victory. Late in the fourth quarter, the Eagles took the ball from their own 40-yard line and moved steadily down the field. Gunter connected with Jerad Barber for another key third down conversion to keep the drive alive. McPherson and Keating kept pounding runs up the gut of the defense to bring the Eagles into Stanwood territory. Moments later Gunters touchdown pass to Chris Myers made the score 34-14 with only a few minutes remaining.
Stanwood had no response and as the clock expired on the game a jubilant Arlington bench celebrated the victory. The teams shook hands and then Arlington continued its celebration nearly the 30-yard line.
Coach Tim Tramp gave an impassioned speech to the team, saying that Arlington, can run the table from here on out. He was greeted with a rousing cheer from the team and fans listening in.
We played tough against the run, said Tramp later. We avoided turnovers and penalties and we didnt beat ourself. Its great to have a weapon like Brandon out there.
Gunter finished the game with nearly 200 yards rushing, two scores on the ground, and one through the air.
I just followed my lineman, said Gunter. On that second touchdown run I didnt even get touched.
Running back Michael Keating agreed with Gunters assessment.
The line was everything tonight, said Keating. It feels great to see a lot of hard work pay off.
His line played an excellent game and guard Jurrell Frank spoke about what it meant to the group.
We love to block for Brandon, said Frank, we went straight up the middle on (Stanwood). Wed prepared extra hard for this game and I think it showed.
It meant a little bit extra to the seniors to bring the Stilly Cup back to Arlington.
We wanted to do everything possible to win, said linebacker Greg Holsworth after the game. This is the win we look for all year.