By Bill Sorrell
When Arlington quarterback Zach Baker wants motivation he looks at his right arm.
On his bicep is a tattoo of Psalm 23:4, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me.”
“It reminds me of things in life, if you are feeling down and something is not going your way, to keep faith and something good will happen. It’s a big motivation,” said Baker, who relied on the verse throughout the Tigers’ 35-3 Homecoming loss to Memphis University School on Friday.
“We were definitely down the whole game. Seeing it helps me get myself motivated and get everyone motivated and keep everybody in the game.”
When MUS quarterback Edwin Shy and wide receiver Clarkson Shoaf want motivation they look at their left arms.
A left-handed quarterback, Shy completed 20 of 25 passes for 240 yards and three touchdowns including a jaw-dropping pass to Shoaf for the Owls’ second touchdown after Shy fielded a bad snap and retreated about 20 yards from the line of scrimmage at the Arlington 12 to heave it to Shoaf who leapt into the air for a one-handed left-handed grab.
“I looked up and saw Edwin 30 yards back and then the ball was in the air coming to me . I knew the DB (defensive back) was smaller than me so I jumped up and caught it,” said Shoaf.
Shy said, “When the ball went over my head I didn’t know if I wanted to jump on it or not but I decided to pick it up. I thought I had enough time and I saw two of our guys in the end zone. I am confident in Clarkson and Drew Burnett was also in there and I said ‘Let’s go make a play’ and he made it for me.”
Throwing the ball high on purpose, Shy said, “Clarkson is a tall guy (6-2) so I tried to give him a chance. Clarkson makes plays every day in practice so it was nothing new to see him do that and have a great performance like that. Clarkson has the ability to get open. His technique and footwork is really good and his straight-line speed will beat a guy in the 40 every time. Him being out there, we feel comfortable throwing him the ball every play and (wide receiver) Gavin McKay too. Those guys make plays for us.”
McKay, who has committed to play at Missouri, said, “That play was simply insane. I just remember seeing the ball in the air and when I saw it was sailing towards Clarkson I didn’t have a doubt he was not going to come up with the catch. It was a great play by both Edwin and Clarkson.”
Shoaf had a game-high 97 yards on seven receptions and scored his first touchdown on a 50-yard pass from Shy on the Owls’ first offensive play of the game after an interception by Tylyn Young on the Tigers’ first offensive play of the game.
“Clarkson has made a play for us in every game. He’s a talented kid. He made those for us last year. With him and Gavin out there they are both pretty good players and we have to figure out how to get them the ball,” said MUS head coach Bobby Alston. “Edwin had the kind of game we were hoping for him to have. Last week (in a 30-27 loss to Montgomery Bell Academy) he played hurt and we probably shouldn’t have played him. Tonight he came back and showed what kind of player he is. Just proud of 11 (Shy).”
MUS middle linebacker D.J. Brown called Shoaf “a baller. I remember last year he caught a game winner in overtime at Pope John Paul. He makes plays all the time.”
All during the game the Owls defense was making plays. They held Arlington to 65 yards rushing and 19 yards passing.
“We played a whole lot better defense than we’ve been playing. I am proud of those guys. They (Tigers) have a pretty good offense and we kept them out of the end zone,” said Alston.
Calling his team’s defense “incredible” Shy said, “I know our guys can do that every game. I think the interception on the first drive was a good starter for us. We kept that momentum through the whole game. The turning point was the kickoff. We were all feeling good. If we have got our guys feeling good they play even better.”
Getting momentum from punching it in early was a “good sign” said Alston, who has 37 seniors
Said Shoaf, “We just took all the momentum of the game on the first- play touchdown and that seemed to deplete Arlington’s advantage and give us the advantage.”
Baker said it was a huge momentum boost for the Owls to take an early touchdown lead with 10:12 left in the first quarter.
“It was our job to climb back in it and get rid of that momentum and we didn’t do it.”
Arlington head coach Adam Sykes agreed.
“At that point it was playing catch up the rest of the game. It definitely swings your momentum. Guys start doubting themselves. We preach you have to play four quarters regardless of the scoreboard. We didn’t come out ready to play. That is on me. We got beat in all phases of the game.
“They played two quarterbacks and both of them played very well. They had some receivers that made some good catches. Their timing on their routes, their placement of balls were very good. We have got to keep practicing the little things, catching the balls, throwing the balls, tackling. You have to do the fundamentals. You don’t lose those as the season goes along. You have to keep fighting play by play. They did some things on defense that might have confused us a little bit. They played well on defense. They had a good scheme. We had a chance to make plays and we didn’t do it. They beat us physically.”
Turning 18 on Friday, Arlington wide receiver/linebacker Dylan Keith was hoping to celebrate with a win but “we come out with no grit or energy and let them punch us in the mouth from the first play of scrimmage and laid down too early. We could have played tougher. We didn’t have 100 yards total (offense) which is something we should be well over no matter who we play,” he said.
What stifled the Tigers (3-3) was their lack of third down conversions.
They converted one of 12 third downs and 0 of 12 fourth downs. They had five first downs the entire game. MUS had 16 first downs and converted 5 of 14 third downs and one of two fourth downs.
“We got pushed back on first down, second down. We ended up third and 10. We couldn’t convert. We’ll have to execute better,” said Baker. “They did well on all three phases. Executing on offense, that is the biggest part. That is part of my job as quarterback, to keep them motivated, to keep them in the game, drive the ball down the field. We know that we are still a good team. We know that we can execute well on offense and defense.”
Arlington running back Devouncey Glover said “we just missed blocks. Arlington needs to work on offense more. They had a couple of defensive stops early. It didn’t affect us because we still had a chance of scoring.”
The Owls’ defensive goal was to contain Baker, who has been offered a scholarship to Henderson State in Arkadelphia, Arkansas.
“He makes the offense go. We had to contain him and stop the run. That was our game plan,” said Brown.
Arlington sophomore quarterback/defensive back Grant Buchanan said the Tigers did not play as Tigers.
“We aren’t the team that played Friday night. When we play our game I feel like can compete with anybody. We found out what our weaknesses are and things we need to improve on in order to win big games. We needed a way to stop the pressure and move the ball down the field. MUS made big plays when they needed them. MUS did a good job bringing pressure which forced us out of the pocket and make some tough throws.”
The win was the first for the Owls (1-2) who host St. Benedict (1-3) in a Division 2-AAA West game at 7 p.m. this Friday.
“It feels great to get that first win under your belt,” said Shy, who also plays lacrosse and basketball and runs track. “We learned that if we execute we are a great team. If we do our job every play we are a hard team to beat.”
The Owls’ spread offense had 338 yards total offense with 191 rushing, 247 passing.
Junior quarterback George Hamsley completed one of eight passes for 7 yards.
Christopher Goodwin rushed for 43 yards on seven carries, Hunter Barnes 25 yards on seven carries, Shy 14 yards on two, Stryker Aitken 13 on three, Coffman 10 yards on five carries, Mason Pahlow 11 yards on three carries.
Goodwin scored on a 3-yard run in the second quarter and Pahlow on a 7-yard run in the fourth quarter.
McKay had 45 yards receiving on three catches, Barnes 39 yards on three, Burnett 29 yards on four, Goodwin 17 yards on two, Aitken 12 on one. Burnett caught an 8-yard touchdown pass from Shy in the third quarter.
Baker rushed for 30 yards on seven carries, John Davis 29 yards on 13 carries, Glover six yards on six carries. Baker completed 4 of 18 passes with Keith catching two for 14 yards, Jake Golday made one catch for nine yards.
Jakob Deshields’ 33-yard field goal in the first quarter was Arlington’s only score.
“I saw a good team effort. All 11 guys made good plays. The start we got off to probably has more to do with the way I tried to coach them to get through COVID than how we played. We were in a better rhythm tonight,” said Alston, whose team was playing two games straight for the first time this season. “In the first two games we had some chances and we didn’t make it. Tonight we got in sync better. We wanted a win. It feels a whole better than losing.”
The Owls came into the game with a chip on their shoulder said Brown.
“We felt like we were doing the little things wrong. We worked hard in practice and got back at it tonight. We were looking for that. The coaches were on us hard, getting us right. We were on each other hard and taking accountability to get it right. Being 0-2, we were not used to that.”
Shoaf said, “We knew if we put offense and defense together we would be hard to beat. The passing game has started to look much better as the weeks have gone on and defense is playing very well.
“The defense looked great (against Arlington). Tylyn Young has really stood out as a lock-down corner and our linebackers are always great. Edwin has a great game as well as Gavin McKay. I learned that our team does well facing adversity after losing our first two games and coming back with a big win.”
McKay said, “I think people don’t know what our team is capable of these past couple weeks. We will not give in when we face adversity. Guys on both sides of the ball were firing off and executing our assignments well. That is why we clicked. Edwin and Clarkson came up big on offense and helped extend the lead.”
McKay has learned first hand how to play the game. His father Orlando McKay played wide receiver at the University of Washington and the 1992 season for the Green Bay Packers and two seasons in the Canadian Football League including the Memphis Mad Dogs in 1995. He coaches track and is an assistant football coach at MUS.
“My dad taught me almost everything I know about the wide receiver position, the skill. He is most meticulous about my route running whether it’s studying old Jerry Rice practice videos or doing work on the field, he’s always trying to help me improve my game.”
Gavin McKay’s strengths include his route running, blocking and catch radius. He is not the only Division 1 commit for the Owls. Wide receiver/defensive back Roderic Lewis has committed to Tulane.
Baker said, “I know they have D 1 commits but that is no excuse for what we did tonight.”
In the first meeting between Arlington and MUS, Young raced 16 yards after intercepting Baker’s pass returning it to the 50 before Shy hit Shoaf for the first touchdown that put the Owls ahead for good.
Senior placekicker George Howard kicked his first of five extra points.
In their second scoring drive, the Owls got first downs from Shy passes to Goodwin and to Barnes that got to the Tigers 15 before Barnes ran to the 12. With 6:18 left in the first quarter Shy hit Shoaf with the unbelievable pass and it was 14-0 after Howard’s extra point.
The Tigers scored on an 84-yard drive behind first down runs by Glover and Baker’s 12-yard pass to Keith. Baker ran to the Owls 16 before DeShields kicked his field goal with 1:06 left in the first.
The Owls went up 21-3 after a 70-yard drive. Shy passes to Shoaf, Aitken, McKay helped get MUS to the Tigers 7 before Goodwin scored from 3 with 6:22 left in the second quarter. That would be the halftime score.
“After the half we got back after it again. That we struggled on coming out a second-half team, we kept the pedal down like Coach Alston said, “ said Brown.
Nick Smith, Arlington defensive back, had an excellent pass break-up in the third quarter during the Owls’ fourth touchdown drive. On fourth down and seven, Shy threw a first down pass to McKay to the Tigers 23. Runs by Barnes set up Shy’s 8-yard touchdown pass to Burnett. Howard kicked it to 28-3 with 5:35 left.
The Owls scored their last touchdown with 7:39 left in the game going 57 yards. Shy passes to Mac Owen, Drew Burnett, a run by Alex Coffman preceded Pahlow’s 7 yard touchdown run. Howard increased the lead to 35-3.
Arlington defensive back Mitchell Owens recovered a fumble at the MUS 16 but time ran out before the Tigers could score.
Brown was impressed with both MUS quarterbacks Shy and Hamsley. “Edwin is a baller. He made the offense, him and George. It’s definitely a blessing to have those two,” he said, also pleased with the team’s energy and with Pahlow. “We love Mason.” A captain, Brown was excited that junior varsity players “got after it” on defense.
The Tigers got excellent play from Golday, who led the team with seven tackles. “Jake played well on defense,” said Buchanan, who stands beside Sykes and does play calls. “I want to contribute any way I can to help the team and learn as much as I can for when my time comes.”
For Arlington, defensively Carter Wood added five tackles, Braxton Tompkins four, Jackson Hair 3.5, C.J. James 2.5, two each from Ashton Morgan, Jackson Powers, Parker McKenzie, Jackson Peterman, Keith, Alex Maddox, 1.5 from J.J. Johnson, Khailun, one each from Landon Bryan. Smith. Destin Sims assisted on a tackle. Tompkins returned six kicks for 96 yards.
Sykes said Deshields did well. His nine punts averaged 32.6 yards. MUS punter Charlie Nichols averaged 34.8 yards on five punts.
Adding to the Owls rushing totals were Hayes Wilkinson 6, Hamsley 2. Receiving Owen had 8 yards, Goodwin 4.
“We knew if we won our match-ups it would be an easy win for us and we did that on the offensive line and outside,” said Shy, calling those his teams biggest strengths. “I thought all of our offensive line was great tonight. Christopher Goodwin at running back is really solid. It was great on both sides of the ball. We have a ton of weapons.”
Center Cason Triplet, right guard Mac Magness, left guard Darren Robinson, left tackle Kyler Herring, right tackle Christopher Yarbro are MUS offensive linemen with Brown, middle linebacker Elliot Allen, defensive linemen Nash Stewart and in the secondary Lewis and Jordan Helton. MUS runs a 3-4 defense.
Allen had a team-high nine tackles, Brown and Colby Ring seven each, Jack Rogers six, McLean Meeks, Will McDaniel, McRae Dickinson three each, Chris Parks and Will Jarratt two each and one each from Lewis, Carter Campbell, Young, Morgan Temme, Walker Burks, Dylan Robinson, Stewart. Dion Stutts, Hayes Wilkinson, Austin Dowdle, Nicolas Gailer.
“Elliot Allen stepped up,” said Brown. Allen spoke to the team before the game,
“He gave a great speech. We were feeling good. Warm-ups were sharp. We have a great chaplain Joe Urcavich. He always gives great chapels right before our game. Everything before the game was on point. We were ready,” said Shy, a captain along with Burnett, Stewart, McKay.
The Owls got in a winning mindset during the week before the Arlington game through perseverance said McKay.
Committing to Mizzou because it was consistent during his recruiting process and “cared about me and my life after football,” McKay said that his faith plays a big role in his life.
“I know without my God I wouldn’t be in the position I’m in today. I try to glorify His name every time I’m on that field.”
The Tigers host Brighton (2-4) at 7 p.m. this Friday in Senior Night.
“I told them in the locker room after the game the coaches are going to break down film like we do, coach them the best we can. The best thing is like some other guys around the area that can’t play football, they get to play football again next week and that’s a blessing in itself,” said Sykes.
The Owls victory will boost their morale, said McKay.
“Now we’re looking to build off this momentum we’ve got right now and keep the wins coming.”