Bartlett’s student section wore the white out but Arlington’s defense pitched a shut out with a 39-0 win in District 14-AAA opening action Friday night.
Tiger quarterback Hunter Sheffield completed 17 of 25 passes for 209 yards and Jo Jo Stevenson added 116 all purpose yards as Arlington used five Panther turnovers to put the game out of reach early.
“We can’t continue to play somebody better or equal to us and make mistakes,” Panther first year coach Jeff McFerran said. “We’re not an elite program – we’re not good enough to overcome putting the ball on the ground again and again.”
Three times Panther kick-off return men fumbled, setting up an already potent Arlington offense in Bartlett territory. Arlington’s defense added a pair of interceptions and completed the cycle with a blocked punt for a safety and a Panther field goal attempt.
“I think overall we played well,” Tiger coach Chris Wiley said. “The defense set the tone getting turnover after turnover and set us up for success.”
Arlington scored early and often as Panther mistakes buried Bartlett 21-0 in the first quarter.
The Tigers, working the edges with a horizontal passing game used sensational receivers Jonathan Bowlan (5-71 yards) and Joseph Stevenson (5-87 yards) to creep the Panther secondary up.
“We just look for the grass,” Wiley said of his teams’ edge-to-edge offense. “We take what they give us.”
With Panther defenders playing 10 yards off the ball, Arlington went to the air on seven of their first eight plays, including four catches by Stevenson, to go 64 yards in under four minutes. Cameron Durley added the point after for a 7-0 lead.
Twelve seconds later and Arlington scored again. Jonathon Frazier fumbled the first of two kick-off returns setting the Tigers up on the six. Sheffield found Bowlan on a read option to go up two scores.
Bartlett’s offense came to life on the ensuing series.
With starting running backs Braylon Porter and Johnnie Shepherd unavailable, the tandem of Tony Jackson and Jurieen Martin went to work splitting 10 carries to get inside the Tiger 20. Nick Bramlett found Wes Johnson for six to the nine but Bramlett was sacked on third and goal and Drew Hollis’s 23-yard field goal attempt was blocked.
Three plays later Sheffield found Stevenson inches behind a Panther defender and laid the ball in his lap for the biggest play of the game. The 52-yard pass play set up a three-yard Logan Tornabene touchdown for a 21-0 lead after one period of play.
A Panther three and out led to a blocked punt safety and one series later, Bowlan made an acrobatic over-the-shoulder catch for a 24-yard score and a 30-0 cushion.
Tiger lineman Aaron Pryor picked off his second pass in as many games three plays later with the Tigers settling for a 32-yard Durley field goal.
Durley got his third attempt seconds later when Tony Jackson put the ball on the ground on the kick return, notching a 30-yarder for a 36-0 lead at intermission.
Durling, an Arlington transfer, made it 4-4 on the Tiger’s first possession of the second half.
The Tiger’s Ryan Flack intercepted Bramlett setting Arlington up at midfield. Ten plays later and Durling was good from 32 yards for the final margin.
“Defensively, from the middle of the second quarter on we played great,” Panther coach McFerran said. “We repeatedly gave them the ball in our territory and we held them to field goals. The defense took a step forward tonight. Offensively, we’ve got to figure out why we’re not playing with confidence.”
“It’s a rivalry game,” Tiger coach Chris Wiley said. “I graduated from Bartlett High. I played for one of their (Bartlett’s) coaches. These boys all know one another. We’ve been up on an upslope right now but this is a big game.”
Bartlett looks to bounce back Friday night when they host Millington. Arlington goes on the road to Murfreesboro Oakland. Kick-offs are set for 7 p.m.