By Thomas Sellers Jr.
ARLINGTON — The last two District 14-3A league winners renewed their rivalry last Friday under a warm clear autumn Arlington night.
The 2011 champs Millington Trojans made the trip to the Arlington Football Stadium without two starting running backs, a couple of linemen injured and junior quarterback Eldon Tyms out for the rest of the season with an ankle injury.
Despite all those Trojan aliments, the head coach of the two-time defending district champs Arlington Tigers was ready for a battle for this year’s crown.
“No matter what, there’s always going to be a good game between us,” Arlington Head Coach Chris Wiley said. “I knew they had some injuries and stuff but it really didn’t matter. They played a great football game. I’m so glad our guys overcame some obstacles we created for ourselves. We beat a good team, regardless of injuries. They’re still a good football team.”
The Tigers earned their straight District 14-3A title outlasting the Trojans 17-7. Millington was limited on offense adjusting to a new backfield featuring a wide out Artavious Thomas converting to running back and quarterback. Also linebacker Donte Pitts saw time at full back.
“Defensively we played well,” Trojans Head Coach Chris Michael said. “They knew they were up against it and they had to all they could to keep the score low so our offense could try to muster up some points. They played hard, but ultimately there were some penalties on the defensive side of the ball that put them back on the field when they rightfully earned their way off the field.”
Early in the contest it seemed Millington (6-2, 3-1) would remain undefeated in district getting a lucky break when Trojan reserved quarterback Sam Stanifer dropped back to hit a wide out. The ball was tipped and flew high into the air landing in the hands of Millington speedster Kip Fleming.
Fleming raced to the end zone to give Millington a 7-0 lead late in the first quarter.
Arlington got on the scoreboard in the second quarter when place kicker Cameron Durley nailed a 38-yard kick.
With 4 minutes and 50 seconds left in the first half Arlington took the lead when quarterback Tate Cuckoldry hooked up with receiver Everett Mitchell for a 15-yard TD.
Arlington (7-2, 4-0) was ahead 10-7 at the break. The third quarter went scoreless with Arlington using long drives to eat up clock and the Tigers iced the game in the fourth quarter with another Kolwyck to Mitchell connection. The 7-yard score on fourth down with 11:16 seconds left made the score 17-7.
“It was great,” Wiley said. “Being able to extend those drive and convert those third downs that was the difference in the ball game. We ate up the clock toward the end of the third and most of the fourth quarter which allowed us to keep the lead the whole time.”
The win clinched the district for the Tigers and Arlington has a week off before concluding the regular season against Cordova.
“We want to prove ourselves in the playoffs,” Wiley said. “We still have one game against Cordova. That’s always a person game, I coached at Cordova. A lot of these guys live across the street from guys who play at Cordova.
“More importantly we have a week off to heal up and everything,” he concluded. “But we’re going to stay focused on that to try to finish out this district undefeated. Then we want to make a run in the playoffs. We’re not just satisfied with three district championships, although that’s a great accomplishment.”
“It will be tough,” Michael acknowledged. “Hopefully they’ll hurt for a little while and be ready to go on Monday. I just hope they don’t get frustrated with the fact they lost this game and they don’t think they can score points.
“We have to find a way to get people in the right spots to try to put some points on the board,” he concluded. “It’s going to be tough these last couple of weeks on the defense. Hopefully they’ll keep their heads up and be ready to go on Monday.”