By ANDY WOLF
BASCOM — Arlington spent most of Friday night’s game putting Hopewell-Loudon in bad field position.
The Red Devils inadvertently did so one last time with 2:04 to go by fumbling at the goal line with just an eight-point lead.
However, the Chieftains’ uphill battle never got liftoff. A fumble on the ensuing play gave the ball right back to Arlington, which scored on the very next play to put the finishing touches on a 36-22 Blanchard Valley Conference win.
“The last one there, we cut it to eight and we have some excitement there,” H-L coach Brian Colatruglio said. “If we can get the ball out here at the 30 (yard line) with 4 minutes to go, I like our chances. Having to go 98 with 2 minutes to go, that’s asking a lot.”
Arlington, which led the entire way through the BVC opener, improved to 3-0 overall for the first time since 2014. Hopewell-Loudon dropped to 1-2.
“We knew coming into it Hopewell is always a tough opponent and Brian always does a good job to get his kids ready to go,” Arlington coach Josh McGrain said. “We knew it’d be a game where it’d be all the way to the end.”
The Red Devils got out to a 17-7 halftime lead but could never quiet the Chieftains until the final minutes.
Arlington nearly put the game away on a 13-play, 58-yard drive that spanned 7:02 and ended on a botched handoff on fourth-and-goal at the 2 yard line.
Instead, Hopewell-Loudon recovered and found new life despite being 98 yards and a two-point try away from tying it up.
On the Chieftains’ first play from scrimmage, Luke Jameson swung a short pass to Brock Williams, who turned up field and was met immediately by a host of Red Devils, causing the fumble that was recovered by Ty Webb.
Arlington quarterback Jacob Russell punched in from 2 yards out for the game’s final score.
The ending was the epitome of the entire first half for the Chieftains.
Their average starting field position was at their own 13-yard line and only once had it outside of their 20. Three times they started inside their own 10.
H-L went three and out on three of those drives, turned another into a 13-play, 64-yard touchdown drive and got thrown for a safety when Sam Stickley, who scored the 2-yard touchdown, got tackled in the end zone by Arlington’s Malcolm Williams and Ryan Metzger.
Arlington, meanwhile, kept capitalizing on its field position.
The Red Devils started four of their six first-half drives in H-L territory, once at their own 40 and another at midfield.
Either through perfect punts or lengthy kick returns, Arlington largely controlled its own luck.
“It was nice to see (special teams) really pay dividends for us tonight,” McGrain said.
Arlington’s two-headed rushing attack of Evan O’Rear and Devin Plunkett also paid off in terms of paydirt.
Both backs scored a pair of touchdowns and combined for 180 of Arlington’s 200 rushing yards.
O’Rear led with 94 yards on 16 carries, scoring on 5- and 11-yard bursts in the first and third quarters.
Plunkett added 86 more on 20 carries with two 1-yard plunges in his first action of the season.
“Another week where our offensive line did a pretty good job of opening some holes and doing some nice things for us,” McGrain said. “It’s really nice where we’ve got two kids back there that obviously we can balance things out to where you can’t just focus on one kid.”
Stickley scored all three H-L touchdowns, but the speedster stayed bottled up most of the night with an Arlington defense already keying on him.
The BVC’s rushing leader at 145 yards per game and five touchdowns, Stickley gained 26 of his 49 yards (15 carries) on a touchdown scamper in the third quarter.
The strike pulled the Chieftains within 23-15 with 2:33 left in the third quarter after Brock Williams converted the two-point run.
Stickley also had an 8-yard touchdown reception of a Jameson pass on fourth down in the fourth quarter to cut Arlington’s lead again back to one score at 30-22.
Jameson finished with 158 yards and one interception on 16 of 30 passing. Williams made seven catches for 62 yards.
“We give great effort,” Colatruglio said. “Our guys fight like crazy. I’ve never questioned our effort but, man, we are so inconsistent right now in the fundamentals of what we’re doing, the basic stuff that we’ve been doing for two months now,”
Arlington 8 9 13 6 — 36
Hopewell-Loudon 0 7 8 7 — 22
ARL — O’Rear 5 run (Plunkett run)
H-L — Stickley 2 run (Nelson kick)
ARL — Safety, Stickley tackled in end zone
ARL — Plunkett 1 run (Metzger kick)
ARL — O’Rear 11 run (kick blocked)
H-L — Stickley 26 run (Williams run)
ARL — Plunkett 1 run (Metzger kick
H-L — Stickley 8 pass from Jameson (Nelson kick)
ARL — Russell 2 run (kick failed)
First Downs 14 13
Rushes-yards 45-200 18-64
Passing Yards 116 158
Comp-Att-Int 10-13-0 16-31-1
Punts-Avg. 3-37 3-31.3
Fumbles-Lost 3-3 1-12
Penalties-Yards 8-61 2-10
rushing — Arlington, O’Rear 16-94, Plunkett 20-86, Russell 5-20, Essinger 2-1, team 1-(minus-1). Hopewell-Loudon, Stickley 16-49, Williams 3-15.
passing — Arlington, Russell 10-13-116-0. Hopewell-Loudon, Jameson 16-30-158-1, Williams 0-1-0-0.
receiving –Arlington, Metzger 3-36, Plunkett 3-25, Vermillion 1-23, Berry 1-8, O’Rear 1-6, Essinger 1-5. Hopewell-Loudon, Williams 7-62, Milligan 5-46, Nelson 2-35, Stickley 1-8, Jury 1-5.