Arlington takes early lead, bests Bartlett 55-20

Bartlett’s JJ Vaden runs in for one of the three scores he had on the night. Vaden scored all of Bartlett’s touchdowns Friday night against Arlington. Photo by Theron Malone.
Bartlett’s JJ Vaden runs in for one of the three scores he had on the night. Vaden scored all of Bartlett’s touchdowns Friday night against Arlington. Photo by Theron Malone.

One of the biggest rushes Arlington’s football team had on Friday came after their game against Bartlett.

Players stormed out of the locker room when they learned chicken sandwiches were waiting for them.

“It’s amazing right now,” said Tigers linebacker Logan Feathers of the sandwich and could have said of the 55-20 Region 7-6A homecoming victory over the Panthers. “We got up pretty soon and stayed on top of them. Even though we were winning by a lot, we didn’t let up at all.”

Arlington senior quarterback Tate Kolwyck threw for four touchdowns, including two the first two times he touched the ball and three in the first quarter in route to a 34-0 lead. Kolwyck, who passed for five touchdowns against Houston on Sept. 1, completed 5 of 5 passes for 223 yards before finishing his night before halftime with the Tigers leading 55-13.

“I think scoring the first series and continuing got our defense hyped, got the sideline hyped and our student section was hyped,” said Kolwyck. “I had good protection from the line. The receivers got open. Everybody on offense and defense was ready to go.”

The Tigers’ defense set up four touchdowns with two interceptions and two fumble recoveries. Wide receiver/defensive back Jorge Avalos scored two touchdowns, one on offense and another on defense. Avalos caught a 60-yard pass from Kolwyck on Arlington’s first possession and returned an interception 26 yards for a touchdown and a 27-0 lead with 2:14 left in the first.

Six different Arlington players scored touchdowns with Kenneth Walker III scoring two in addition to Avalos and Hunter Goodman, Caleb Nelson, LaDarius Smith and Devin Chandler each scoring. Smith averaged 20.7 yards per carry in leading the Tigers in rushing with 62 yards. Walker had eight carries for 51 of Arlington’s 140 rushing yards.

Nelson caught a game-high 76 yards on his lone reception, the touchdown pass from Kolwyck that gave the Tigers a 13-0 lead. Avalos’ and Goodman’s receiving yardage were all touchdowns and Chandler had two receptions for 59 yards. Goodman scored on a 28-yard reception.

Arlington’s offensive line of Eli Jordan, Josh Jones, Jordan Williams, Ethan Asher, Oshola Ajayi and Jon Worley helped fuel the scoring.

Defensive back Cezanne Bush led Tiger tacklers with six while Mitchell Faulkner and Alex Salas each had five, Feathers and Austin Randall four each.

“We did our job,” said Salas, a senior linebacker.

Arlington Head Coach Adam Sykes said, “We had a lot of energy coming out. We preached that all week and we jumped up pretty quick and that gave us some momentum. The guys played well. We spread the ball on offense a lot tonight. I thought our skilled guys got touches and touchdowns which is good for not just one guy dominating the game. For us to be successful we have to spread the ball out. I was very impressed with that offensively.”

Leading the Panthers against Arlington for the third straight year, Bartlett senior quarterback J.J. Vaden had a dominant performance, grinding his way to all three Bartlett touchdowns and a game-high 167 yards rushing. He averaged 6.96 yards on 24 carries.

Vaden scored three touchdowns on runs of 6, 32 and 2 yards. The three touchdowns tied a career high. He scored three against Overton in the first game this season. He encouraged his team the entire game.

Bartlett running back Myron Washington, who gained 49 yards on 15 carries, said, “I’ve got to tip my hat to J.J. Vaden. No matter the score, my quarterback came over and picked us all up. When our heads were down in the first quarter he said that it is going to be an all-night fight. He played a real good game. I see him fighting and making me want to fight even harder.”

Said Vaden, “When my team is down like the way we were, I told myself I had to step up and make something happen. Every time I got the ball I had my eyes on the end zone and told myself I wasn’t going down without a fight. I learned that I can never let what is happening around me affect my play, I can’t get frustrated and live in the past but turn the page and keep on fighting. I just kept driving my feet and doing whatever I could to help my team.”

Salas said, “He knows how to keep his feet moving. It’s hard to size him up, wrap him up and bring him down. He does his job very well.”

Said Nelson of Vaden, “He is a tough kid, smart, good with the football, a classy guy. I have known him outside of football. He is very cool to talk to and a very well-rounded guy.”

Bartlett Head Coach Tim Haney told his team to overcome the “tough” setback.

“We have got to keep fighting and playing hard. We have to eliminate mistakes right off the bat. We can’t play from behind. We have got to come out from the very beginning, ready to play and not spot people points,” he added.

The Panthers (3-4, 0-3 in region) had gutsy play from running back Melvin Turnage who rushed for 42 yards on 10 carries and a kick return of 30 yards, a key seven-yard run by Tamarius Brown and a 9-yard pass reception, a 7-yard pass reception by Philip Thompson who also had four kick returns for 63 yards. Thompson had a 36-yard return in the first quarter. Catching it at his 16, he returned it to the Arlington 48. That set up the eight-play drive that led to Bartlett’s first touchdown, a 6-yard run by Vaden with 10:19 left in the second quarter.

Robert Walker had two kick returns for 30 yards including a 16-yarder for Bartlett. Noah Buckingham led Bartlett tacklers with three while Thompson, Tyler Holmes, Chris Blanks had two each. Stewart Kerby made an excellent tackle.

Bartlett punter Jackson McCrady had two for 56 yards. Hunter Goodman had a 40-yard punt for Arlington. The Tigers’ first punt came with 2:10 left in the third quarter.

Nelson had 66 yards in kick return yardage with his longest, a 35-yard return in the second quarter, and Avalos a 26-yard return.

“We were dominant tonight against a rival. That was awesome,” said Nelson. “Scoring on that first play, after that it was a downhill battle. We are a bunch of fighters. We are small but really we can pack a punch.”

The punch began when Kolwyck, who has committed to play baseball at Vanderbilt next year, threw the 60-yarder to Avalos with 10:43 into the game.

While Conner Ford missed his first PAT, he hit the next seven straight.

It was 13-0 after Kolwyck threw the 76-yard pass to Nelson with 5:12 left in the first. Feathers recovered a fumble by Turnage at the Bartlett 23-yard line with 4:13 left in the first. That set up Arlington’s third touchdown, a 16-yard run by Walker, and a 20-0 lead at 2:29.

Intercepting Vaden at the 23-yard line, Avalos scored a touchdown and it was 27-0 with 2:14 left. A high snap to Vaden led to his fumble that

Arlington defensive back Glyndon Carroll recovered at the Panther 23. Kolwyck then threw his third TD pass, a 28-yarder to Goodman and a 34-0 lead.

Bartlett, behind its offensive line of Mohamad Al-Ramahi, Carter Webb, Solomon Clay, Mason Harris, Josh Russell, scored its first touchdown. Vaden had gains of 23 yards before his 6-yard touchdown and Turnage rushed for 27 yards including a 22-yard gain before Vaden’s touchdown. It was 34-6 with 10:19 left in the second quarter.

“I liked the way our offensive line stayed in the game,” said Washington.

One of the game’s most exciting plays came when Kolwyck was passing. The ball was flying toward Nelson who tipped it and Chandler caught it for a 52-yard touchdown. The Tigers led 41-6 with 9:26 left in the second quarter.

Nelson was in on the Tigers’ next touchdown. He intercepted Vaden at the Bartlett 37 and returned it to the 10. After a penalty, Walker scored from six yards and it was 48-6 with 6:06 left before halftime.

An 8-yard run by Smith made it 55-6 with 2:17 left. A 32-yard run by Vaden , a 5-yard gain by Turnage, a penalty on Arlington, a 6-yard gain by Vaden preceded Vaden’s 16-yard touchdown run with 7.9 seconds left in the second quarter. Buckingham kicked the PAT. Bartlett trailed 55-13.

Washington had six straight rushes to set up the Panthers’ final touchdown, a 2-yard run by Vaden. It came with 8:15 left in the game. Earlier the Panthers had driven to the Arlington 18-yard line, with Turnage and Washington alternating carries, but couldn’t convert on fourth down. Bartlett did convert 5 of 11 third downs.

Bartlett drove from the Tigers’ 49-yard line to the 10 with 9 seconds left. Vaden got there on a 17-yard run.

Washington said that he kept his head locked in the game no matter the score.

“The scoreboard doesn’t really matter to me. I always try to get another touchdown and fight for as many yards as I can get no matter the circumstance,” he noted.

Vaden said that it was the toughest battle against Arlington and Kolwyck in three years.

“I have great respect for Tate Kolwyck. He is a great athlete and a great leader of his team. It’s been a fun three years playing against him.”

Sykes said of Kolwyck, “He played very well. He makes our offense go. When he plays well we typically have a good night.”

Sykes also praised play by Feathers and Avalos.

“Jorge had a really good game. He caught a touchdown pass and turned around a series or two later, he intercepts and scores another touchdown on defense,” he noted.

Sykes’ goal at halftime was to try to play as many players as he could.

Junior Rhodes Carson came in at quarterback and rushed for eight yards while Clayton Spicer ran for nine.

“Coach Haney does a really good job and I respect him. The situation we were in is sort of tough because you don’t want to embarrass the other side. The second half was good. We were trying to shuffle a lot of kids to get some playing time. It goes by quick (the clock ran continuously after the Tigers’ 35-point lead),” said Sykes, whose team hosts the Eagles at 7 p.m. this Friday.

Bartlett hosts MAHS in homecoming at 7 p.m. this Friday and Arlington will host ECS.

Feathers, who was a nominee for Homecoming King along with Kolwyck and had gained nine yards on a first quarter run, said that Avalos and Nelson had “good games.”

A senior and member of Bellevue Baptist Church, Nelson puts a cross on his wrist tape.

“I play for Him (God). He gives me the ability. Faith is my whole life. It gives me a platform to teach people and encourage people to learn the ways,” said Nelson, whose favorite Bible verse is Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

Nelson is also playing for another goal: “We want to be the first (Arlington team) to win state.”

BILL SORRELL is a freelance writer for The Bartlett Express and other Journal West 10 Media LLC publications. Contact him at