Arlington’s 42-7 road victory against Brighton last Friday began the first two times the Cardinals touched the ball.
After Brighton fumbled the opening kickoff, Arlington quarterback Zach Baker threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to Cannon Linebaugh for a 6-0 lead less than two minutes into the game.
On their next possession, the Cardinals fumbled a pass reception. Moments later, from the 14-yard line, Mitchell Faulkner (133 rushing yards) scored his first of three touchdowns for a 12-0 lead. Faulkner ran for the two-point conversion to make the score 14-0.
“After they fumbled the opening kickoff, it was on,” said Arlington head coach Adam Sykes. “The guys were in the right position to make the play. We had to make the play to get some good things going early and our guys did that. I told the guys in pregame, ‘We have to start fast, we can’t wait
for something to happen.’”
A sky-high interception by Faulkner, also a linebacker, set up a 60-yard drive that John Davis capped off with a 21-yard touchdown run. Conner Ford’s PAT increased the lead to 21-0 with 10:55 left in the second.
With 27 seconds left in the first half Baker threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to Linebaugh and Ford’s extra point put the Tigers up 28-0.
“Turnovers killed us at the beginning and you are playing from behind the whole time,” said Brighton quarterback Nick Johnson. “You can’t come out slow like that. You have to come out firing on all cylinders and we didn’t tonight.”
After a Faulkner’s 5-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, the Cardinals’ Joe Williamson scored on a one-yard fourth quarter run. Ethan Starnes’ PAT made it 35-7.
During the 78-yard scoring drive, Johnson threw first down passes to Ande Blackthunder, Michael Armour, Tyler Burnett and Bryce Chaco. Those were among Johnson’s 15 of 25 pass completions for 165 yards
Baker, who completed 12 of 18 passes for 67 yards, called Johnson, who has a 3.9 GPA, “a definite weapon. His arm is very strong, He showed a lot of poise in tough situations. You can tell he has some game experience and knows how to lead.”
The Cardinals (2-5) had 176 yards of offense compared to 356 for the Tigers (5-2).
“We showed signs tonight of being a very good football team, so we try to take the positives and move from there,” said Brighton head coach Mike David. “Defensively, at times, we look great. We can’t continue to play on a short field. We have to take care of the ball. You can’t afford to turn the ball over three times against a team like Arlington and expect to win. That was disappointing but we have to keep battling in the midst of adversity. If things go wrong you have to step up and play.”
Getting his first state at wide receiver, Brighton’s Ande Blackthunder “did a real good job for us,” said David. “Tyler Burnett had a big night for us. Joe Williamson is a really good running back. Nick does a great job running the offense. He throws the ball extremely well. We tried to throw it quite a bit tonight.”
Burnett caught seven passes for 101 yards, Armour two for 23, Blackthunder three for 21, Emmanuel Thurman two for 13 and Chaco two for seven.
“He always seems to be open,” said Johnson of Burnett. “He is a great playmaker. I think all of our receivers are great playmakers. Our O-line protected me very well and our receivers got the ball.”
Brighton offensive left tackle Jackson Kelley said, despite the 28-0 halftime deficit, he thought his team could rally.
“We have become a second-half team as much as I dislike that,” Kelley said.. “I’d rather come out at the beginning of the game. I know how many comebacks we are able to make. I knew we would come out and hit them in the mouth and we did that in the second half.”
Kelley praised the play of Brighton offensive guard Ben Roberts.
“He did really well. He put players on his back. He got the other offensive linemen where they needed to be and, obviously, it paid off with that score.”
Despite the non-region loss, the Cardinals’ goals are in tact.
“We still have a chance to make the playoffs,” Johnson said. “Once you are in the playoffs anything can happen, whether you are the one seed or eighth seed, You just got to get that spot.”
Brighton (1-2 in Region 8-5A) host region powerhouses Southwind on Oct. 18 and Ridgeway on Oct. 25.
“It’s going to be tough,” David said. “Those are not easy teams to play, but we can rise to the occasion. We are going to give everything we’ve got to make it happen.”