Panthers fall to Whitehaven

Arlington's Chris Jackson snags Mustang running back Carson Blackfan by the shirt tail Friday night. Blackfan had 69 yards on 23 carries. Photo by Kevin Lewter.

Arlington's Chris Jackson snags Mustang running back Carson Blackfan by the shirt tail Friday night. Blackfan had 69 yards on 23 carries. Photo by Kevin Lewter.

As 29 Arlington seniors were recognized on Senior Night, best career football memories were included in introductions. Defensive lineman Chris Jackson was close to having the same memory twice.

On fourth down and one in the fourth quarter, Arlington trailed Houston by four points with a minute left to play in the second round of the 2014 playoffs. Jackson made a tackle that stopped the Mustangs.
Arlington quarterback Tate Kolwyck then threw a Hail Mary touchdown pass that gave the Tigers a 34-32 victory.

Fast forward to Friday night. On fourth down and 25, trailing by seven in overtime, Kolwyck threw a Hail Mary touchdown pass to wide receiver Tavarious Foster. In a decision that Arlington Head Football Coach Adam Sykes made in the fourth quarter, the Tigers went for the two-point conversion.

Kolwyck found Foster in the end zone but this time Houston defended the play and the Mustangs won 42-41 in Arlington.

“Not again,” said Houston Head Coach Will Hudgens as he watched Arlington line up for the conversion. “They threw that Hail Mary up, somewhat of a Hail Mary, it flashed back to two years ago walking out of here with a loss in the playoffs. They went for two and they didn’t get it. Hats off to them. They played a great game. We were just fortunate enough to sneak one out there at the end.”

It was the Mustangs’ third straight last-second win. They toppled Bartlett 14-13 and Collierville 21-17.
“It’s crazy man. This whole year has been a roller coaster for us,” said Houston running back Carson Blackfan, who scored the game’s opening touchdown.

“I have faith in every single one of them," he continued. "We were hoping and praying that they weren’t going to get it and that we were walking out of here with a W. That is what is happening.”

Happening in overtime was Houston wide receiver Terrell Tatum scoring his third touchdown of the game on the first play and Emmanuel Chi kicking his sixth PAT.

Getting the ball at the 10-yard line, the Tigers were penalized. From the 15, Kolwyck threw a 13-yard pass to sophomore running back Kenneth Walker who ran to the 2-yard line. A holding penalty on Arlington later set up Kolwyck’s 25-yard desperation throw to Foster. Arlington was within one, 42-41.

“I saw the dude about to hit me and I thought, ‘Oh no.’ But I got out of the way and I saw him (Foster) out of the corner of my eye. I was like, ‘Why not? Just throw it,'” said Kolwyck, who passed for 409 yards and four touchdowns.

A senior, Foster said, “It was the last chance to keep us in the game so I made the play. It was a good feeling to know I made a great play.”

Speaking on his headset to other coaches, Sykes told them, “If we get into a point where we go into overtime, I am going to go for it the first overtime.”

Going to the line, Kolwyck looked for the game winner against Houston. He threw another pass to Foster but the two-pointer failed.

“It felt bad,” said Foster. “Like we did all we could and it didn’t pay off.”

Sykes said, “We had a play we wanted to run and we ran it but we didn’t execute it.”

As Houston prepared for Arlington, senior Hardy Anderton said remembering that “cold night” in November 2014 was motivation.

“Most of the seniors and a few juniors remember that. When they converted on fourth and long (on Friday), all of us thought deja vu. The pass and catch looked almost identical.”

Tatum said, “We worked all week on having a defensive stand. We all wanted to play our hearts out tonight because we wanted to beat Arlington more than anything. They got us two years ago on a bad play that we thought shouldn’t have happened.”

What got the game to overtime was a jaw-dropping performance by both teams.

Tatum’s three touchdowns were the most of his career. His 92-yard kickoff return was his first and he had a team-high 81 yards receiving. Houston quarterback Garrett Bates passed for 197 yards, including a 71-yard touchdown pass to Emmett Whitaker. Jeramie Tate’s touchdown gave Houston a two-TD lead in the third quarter.

Defensively, Hudgens praised Shane Ptacek, who “really stood off in the middle,” Jake Christoffersen, “all of our d-linemen from Jackson Little to John Bowers to Jake Randolph.”

Ptacek had a sack of 23 yards among his 12 tackles. Nick LeGrande had a sack of eight yards. Tatum had 10 tackles, Sam Robertson 10.

Kolwyck completed 26 of a whopping 41 pass attempts. Hunter Goodman caught 10 passes for 181 yards including a touchdown. Scoring two touchdowns, sophomore Kenneth Walker rushed for 116 of Arlington’s 179 yards and caught four passes for 68 yards. Caleb Nelson caught three passes for 52 yards and scored the Tigers’ first touchdown. In his first varsity game, Arlington freshman Connor Ford kicked all five of his extra points.

Logan Feathers had a team-high 10 tackles for Arlington while Nick Fortner had 10 and Jackson six.

Both coaches gambled on fourth downs in their own territory.

“You only live once. Let’s go for it on fourth down, a little riverboat gambler,” said Hudgens.

The win improved Houston to 4-3, 4-1 in Region 4-6A and in position to host a first-round playoff game. The Mustangs are off this week before hosting Cordova on Oct. 21.

The Tigers, who were in a position to win against Cordova on Sept. 30 before losing 25-21, are 4-4, 1-4 in Region 4-6A. Arlington is also open before playing at Bartlett on Oct. 21.

Both coaches praised their teams’ fight.

“I am glad they battled and didn’t give up when we got down two touchdowns in the second half,” said Sykes, whose team trailed 28-14 and 35-21. “They kept fighting back and fighting back. We just came up one point short."

Said Walker, “We know we are still a great team. We just have to stay focused and move on.”

Said Hudgens, “I tell them all the time just do your job. They have really bought in. They are playing as a team.”

Facing fourth and three with 10:17 left in the first quarter, Houston was at its 44-yard line. With confidence, Blackfan got the first down at the 48 with a 4-yard run. A 13-yard pass from Bates to Little got a first down at the 25. Blackfan ran for a first down at the 14 and later ran to the 1. Fortner and Todd Roaten stopped him.

From the 1, Blackfan scored with 6:41 left and Chi kicked it to 7-0.

A gritty 19-yard run by Kolwyck set up a fourth down and one at his 29-yard line. Walker got the first down at the 30. Houston held and Goodman punted. He would finish with three punts for a 35-yard average.

Houston again tried to convert a fourth down, facing fourth and two at Arlington’s 44. Blackfan was stopped inches short.

Arlington almost scored on its drive. Walker ran to the 7-yard line and then breaking tackles to the 4. A holding penalty cost the Tigers, which put them back to the 13. During the game Arlington had 13 penalties for 91 yards. Houston had 10 penalties for 65 yards.

Walker was later stopped on fourth down by the entire Houston defense.

The Tigers tied the game with 4:44 left in the second quarter. Kolwyck threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to Nelson after Walker ran to the 15 for a first down. In the drive, Kolwyck hit Nelson with a first down pass to the Houston 27. Ford made it 7-7.

Sixteen seconds later, Tatum returned the kickoff 92 yards for a touchdown and a 14-7 Houston lead.

“I saw green,” said Tatum.

What was he thinking as he raced toward the end zone?

“I was going to be tired on defense,” he said.

Tatum played all over the field. He gained 25 yards rushing.

“We run a lot in practice. We make sure we are prepared to be able to go both ways all night long,” he said.

“Tatum is a great player. He played tremendous on defense. He does a lot for us. He is a senior and has been playing four years. It is his time,” said Hudgens.

Kolwyck followed with a drive that got the Tigers to the Houston 31 yard line. He had a great pass to Nelson that went for 20 yards to the 50. The drive failed with an incomplete pass from Kolwyck to Goodman.

By halftime, Nelson had three receptions for 46 yards, Walker had run for 62 yards and Kolwyck had passed for 68 yards. Blackfan had 15 carries for 46 yards.

“At halftime the coaches gave us some more ways that we could attack them on offense and defense. We just went out with a different game plan,” said Kolwyck.

The Tigers tied the game on their first series. A 13-yard touchdown run by Walker pulled Arlington within a point and Ford tied it at 14.

“We came out at halftime and went straight down the field and scored. I feel that gave us the momentum back and gave us more energy to keep going,” said Goodman. “We just kept fighting to the end.”

A lightning strike, 58-yard touchdown pass from Bates to Tatum gave the Mustangs a 21-14 lead with 8:43 left in the third quarter.

Houston took a 28-14 lead after Ptacek caused Kolwyck to fumble. Little recovered and ran to the 12-yard line. A penalty pushed Houston to the 26. Bates then threw a 20-yard pass to Tatum to get to the 5. Tate ran to the 2 and then scored from there with 5:14 left.

Kolwyck’s 29-yard pass to Nelson set up a Tiger score. Kolwyck hit Goodman for a 20-yard touchdown pass and Ford made it 28-21 with 3:18 left in the third.

Houston then scored. Bates threw a 71-yard touchdown pass to Whitaker with 1:26 left and again the Mustangs led by two touchdowns, 35-21 with 1:26 left.

Arlington began a 73-yard scoring drive that included Kolwyck’s 35-yard pass to Walker. Another Kolwyck pass to Walker resulted in a 14-yard touchdown and the Tigers trailed 35-28 with 11:55 left in the fourth.

Facing fourth and three at the Houston 42, Mustang punter Pat Gardner, who finished with four punts for a 42-yard average, kicked. Arlington got it at its 10-yard line. Kolwyck then threw a pass to Goodman for an 8-yard play to the Houston 1. Kolwyck then scored and trailing 35-34, Ford kicked the PAT to tie the game. There was 8:12 left.

The Mustangs failed to convert a fourth down at the Arlington 34 with 4:36 left. On the Tigers’ possession, LaGrande sacked Kolwyck at the Arlington 42 with 2:48 left.

The game then went to overtime.

“I am one who has never thought we would be ever out of a game. You can see what we did tonight,” said Tatum.

The biggest play came when Houston stopped Foster.

Arlington had 588 yards total offense (179 rushing on 37 carries, 409 passing). Houston had 355 yards total offense (158 yards rushing on 43 carries, 197 passing).

Blackfan ran for a team-high 69 yards on 23 carries. He missed two quarters.

“In the second quarter I got banged up. I took a shot to the head but I went through all the concussion protocol. I was all right,” he said.

He returned in the fourth quarter.

Hudgens said, “We gave him a little rest. He had a heavy workload all year long. A couple of quarters off doesn’t hurt him.”

Tate gained 58 yards on 14 carries.

“He stepped up and did a tremendous job playing both sides of the ball,” said Hudgens.

Tate had four tackles.

“Garrett Bates did another great job managing the game,” said Hudgens.

Kolwyck did for Arlington.

“I feel confident with every throw. I know that they are going to pick up and go after the catch,” said Kolwyck a junior.

He bragged on Nelson.

“Caleb did an amazing job. He was awesome.”

Sykes agreed, “Caleb played well. He also made some big catches. He had a touchdown catch.”

Walker is “pure muscle” said Kolwyck, who gained 81 yards on five carries. “They (Foster) are freaks athletically and run over people. I am glad to have them.”

Goodman said of Walker, “He carried the workload. It always takes more than one person to take him down. That is a good thing.”

Sykes said Walker "got us out of some bad situations and ran the ball extremely hard.”

Attributing his success to his offensive line, Walker said, “They opened up gaps and I ran as hard as I could through them.”

Kolwyck had not seen Ford kick before.

“He amazed me. He went perfect.”

Sykes said, “He made all extra points. I couldn’t ask for anything else.”

Adding to the offense, Noah Johnson had five receptions for 37 yards. Korium Ivory three for 46.

Tatum said that the Mustangs were trying to “play our game and make sure we all stuck together on the field.”

“We are just relying on each other,” said Blackfan. “We have each other’s backs and have our coaches backs. I know the guy next to me is going to make plays for me. I know I am going to make plays for him.”

Sykes said there was not much he could say to his team to make them feel better, especially the seniors.

“It was their Senior Night," he noted. "This is one they really wanted to win.”

Kolwyck said, “The season is not over. Everybody starts 0-0 in the playoffs.”

With a 4.5 grade-point average and committed to play baseball at Vanderbilt, Kolwyck was introduced to football in the third grade.

“I grew up naturally playing baseball. I love both of them but I love baseball like nothing else,” said Kolwyck, who depends on his faith every day.

His favorite Bible verse is John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.”

While baseball is his love, Kolwyck said, “It’s crazy. I will say that I have only played in one game of baseball compared to Friday night lights. Friday night lights is the best feeling ever.”

Written by Bill Sorrell, special to the Express.