By Thomas Sellers Jr.
ARLINGTON — Arlington High School hosted a historic gathering in its gymnasium Friday afternoon.
The proud athletic tradition at AHS has included a 2012 Baseball State championship, countless State qualifications in wrestling, basketball and track to go along with a strong football tradition. But the signing day spotlight Friday was for the Arlington Tiger lacrosse program for the first time.
A trio of Tigers — Tyler Jones, Lane Chapman and Josh Kee — made history by signing national letters of intent in front of friends, family and coaches.
“It’s incredibly exciting,” Arlington Head Coach Jarred Coleman said. “I couldn’t picture three better representations of this school or program to go out and be the first kids to go compete at the next level.
“It’s a big event for us and all three of them,” he added. “I couldn’t be any happier, and I think they’re all going to do great things at the next level.”
The six-year old Arlington lacrosse program had humble beginnings. Now the team is preparing for its second straight playoff run and enjoying players inking college scholarships.
Three-year players Jones and Kee are both attending Hendrix College. Meanwhile, their fellow captain and teammate Chapman is heading to the University of the Cumberlands. Chapman was one of the pioneer players for Arlington.
“It’s exciting because I’ve been here from the very beginning,” he said. “And I thought nobody would ever sign from this program to play in college. With me being the one and I get to see it with two of my best friends here is amazing.
“We were originally getting beat 22-0 every game without question,” Chapman recalled. “We were like that until my junior year. We started winning, going 10-4. This year we are 8-3 as of today.”
When Kee and Jones joined the program in the 10th grade, the Tigers were just turning the corner with the arrival of Coleman.
“When I started, sophomore year, we were 2-10,” Kee recalled. “It wasn’t a great year for us. The next year we turned it around. We made it to the playoff for the first time and went pretty far.”
Coleman said that is a direct reflection of his coaching staff and players being dedicated.
“When I was first told there would be 14 or 16 kids come out, I ended up with 30 of them,” he said. “The kids have done a big part of getting kids out here for us to grow.
“As far as the coaching side, we’ve been able to bring in some quality coaches,” Coleman continued, “whether it be me as the head coach or a lot of the assistant coaches who have played in college or the next level. We not only have people who can teach them the growth of the game, most of the credit goes to the kids for the growth with the work they’ve put in on and off the field.”
Jones said the reason the on-the-field success came was because the bond developed in the locker room.
“On the field, we’ve really learned how to work together,” he said. “We lost a few seniors. Junior year, last year, we didn’t really lose any seniors from the year before. So that made us really a tight-knit group. We didn’t lose that many and we’re still really a tight-knit group. We really have something special going on right now.”
Coleman said seeing his players sign to the collegiate level is special and is another indicator of the upward swing for Arlington lacrosse.
“From a coaching prospective it’s always good to see the time you put into a kid you see on a daily basis and you get to know them as people and young men,” he said, “you get to see them continue to the next level. You get to see them pursue and continue to do the things they love to do.
“As coaches, we couldn’t be any happier for what they’ve been able to accomplish,” Coleman added. “What it means for the program moving forward, a team that is relatively new. Going for a team that was virtually winless in two or three years playoff runs back to back, and having kids going off to college. Not only is it great for these young men, it will help the others have the thought, ‘Maybe I can go too.’”
Kee hopes his historic signing will encourage his underclassman teammates to take the game of lacrosse more seriously.
“I use it to inspire others behind me to help build up the program,” he said. “I hope to show Arlington lacrosse is a great organization that has the potential to grow more and get better and have more people sign.”
Jones said April 26, 2019, is just the start of Arlington lacrosse signing days.
“It’s just huge for the organization,” he said. “It shows we can produce college products and put people out there for college. A lot of people have doubted us for years. But now we’re stepping up and showing them we have players who can play at the next level.”
Chapman said Arlington lacrosse has a strong presence in the sport across Tennessee. And the first collegiate signings will benefit the Tigers now and in the future.
“It means that I get to represent everybody and everything I got to do here building a program,” he concluded. “I get to do that out of state and share what I’ve learned here there. They get to teach me things so that I can come back here and teach the game so they can play more fluently. It might be another Coach Chapman here real soon.”