If Arlington’s 17-0 dismantling of the Houston Mustangs last Friday night in the Shelby County Football Jamboree is any indication, then the 2012 edition of Tiger football could well be one of the ages.
With key offensive and defensive players returning from last year’s 9-2 team, which won the school’s its first playoff game, Arlington boost one of the most talented teams in the state.
The Tigers will be tested early as they host the Oakland High School Patriots from Murfreesboro tomorrow night. The Patriots will come into the game ranked in the Top 10 in the state. Kickoff is set for 7 pm. Then Arlington play host to one of the top Memphis City School teams in the high-power offense of White Station the next week.
“Everyone is very excited about the season,” Arlington head football coach Chris Wiley said after the jamboree win over Houston. “Not only does the coaching staff have high expectations for this year but the players, the community and the school does too. We have a good team but we have to prove it on the field every day and these kids have worked hard and I think we should have an exciting year because of it.”
Offensively the Tigers have an embarrassment of riches in the skill position which starts and stops with senior quarterback Drew Reed. The 6-2, 185-pound Reed has thrown for 58 touchdowns against only 11 career interceptions the last two years. He set a team record for 36 touchdowns last year and with 10 highly talented receivers at his disposals, whoever is in charge of replacing the lights on the Tigers scoreboard could get plenty of work this season.
Against Houston Friday night, Reed, like a skilled surgeon, carved up the Mustang defensive with pin point accuracy by hitting on 16 of his 20 attempts for 143 yards and two touchdowns. A one-yard toss to Cole Reynolds and a 33-yard strike to senior Justin Boring. Wiley will quickly point out the four balls that weren’t caught were slight overthrows that would have gone for touchdowns.
“He is amazing,” Wiley said of Reed. “Has has always been accurate but after spending the summer working out and going to camps, he is even more accurate this year, if you can believe that.
“He has really picked up the team with his leadership also,” Wiley said. “He has been a starter since his sophomore year and now two years later he is like a coach on the field for us. He does things that you just can’t coach. He is a very smart player.”
The Tigers have 10, count them, 10 wide receivers, all with the ability to score from anywhere on the field at any time. Led by seniors Boring and Omari Hampton, Arlington will be a threat to score at any moment and from anywhere on the field.
“Justin Boring is such a great athlete,” Wiley said. “Along with Hunter Sheffield and Jonathon Bowlen, Justin will back up Drew Reed at quarterback. Justin could start at quarterback at almost any school in the state and win big time. He has sure hands and he is hard to bring down and he uses his athleticism to beat the defenders to the ball.”
Then when you add the 6-4 Hampton, the 6-3 senior Jontavious Hurd, and the 6-3 junior KJ Bates into the mixed a lot of defensive coordinators will spend a lot of sleepless nights trying to figure out how to stop the Tigers air attack.
“All of our receivers are good athletes,” Wiley said. “We also will throw to Chuck Birdsong, Aaron Boyles, Kenji Anderson, Allen Deberry and Brance Drain from the H-back position. All of those guys can make plays.”
You just can’t worry about stopping the pass either because Wiley has a set of running backs that he calls the deepest in talent that he has ever had.
Along with the bruising Drain, the speedy senior Kody Flagg will torment the defense along with teammates Reynolds, Joseph Stevenson and Zach Durley.
“Every single one of those guys bring a different skill set that teams will have to content with,” Wiley said. “We are the deepest at running back than we have ever been.”
With three returning starters, the offensive line, while small, have experience. Leading the way will be senior center Zach McCarter. McCarter joins seniors Logan Carroll and Cole Walker as returning starters while teammates Ethan Joiner, Zach Stokes and Kenny Faulk should see playing time on the line.
Defensively, the Tigers front four of seniors Daxton Speers, Roderick Petty, Chris Jolly and Lewis Edwards will be hard to handle. Especially Edwards will has bulked up to 255 and didn’t loose any of his speeds from when he was a starting linebacker last year.
“Lewis Edwards will be hard to block that is for sure,” Wiley said. “All of those kids are very good and add Kollin Stokes and Troy Hollister we have some good depth there.”
In the Tigers 4-2-5 defense, they will use four players for the two linebacker positions with returning starter junior Drew Erwin, junior Bailey Robertson and junior Hunter Clay seeing most of the playing time.
Arlington has a solid set of defensive backs in junior Tevin Johnson, senior Rashawn Whitaker, and lock down corner back senior Sean Adams. Junior Tony Carroll and Justin Ford will share time at one safety position while Brantley Martin, Ricky Cox and Tyler Blount will roam in the other safety position.
“We have some good defensive backs and safeties,” said Wiley. “Chris Nolan and Brendon Bryson will also see a lot of time back there.”
Sharing the field goal, extra points and kickoff duties will be senior Stephan Simpson and sophomore Cam Durley while Simpson and Bowlen will vie time at punter.
“We have a good team and I know they and the coaching staff are excited about getting the season started and seeing what we can do in the playoffs,” Wiley said. “Our conference will be tough as always as Bartlett, Bolton, Cordova, Millington and Craigmont will have good teams so we are excited to see how things will turn out.”