ARLINGTON -- Connor Huffman was forced to wait until his senior year to become the starting quarterback at Arlington, but with the knowledge every playoff game could be his last, he's elevated his game to a new level.
Carried by a stellar defense and a strong running game early in the season, Huffman has progressed to make Arlington (10-2) a serious contender in the Class 5A Division II playoffs.
Arlington quarterback Connor Huffman has elevated his level of play in the playoffs:
Passing: 209 yards
Rushing: 81 yards
Team production: 446 yards
Passing: 170 yards
Rushing: 24 yards
Team production: 402 yards
A late-season meeting with coach Scott Peach provided the push Huffman needed.
"Before the playoffs coach Peach pulled me aside, looked me dead in the eye and said I had to play better," Huffman said. "He told me we're going to go as far as I take us and I took that to heart. These past two weeks, I've been working nonstop, trying to make sure I did the little things right, and we've been doing great in practice."
The Colts went 2-2 in the regular season against playoff qualifiers. Huffman threw six interceptions and rushed for just 89 yards combined in those games. The low point came in a late-season 38-7 loss to Arlington Bowie, where Huffman threw for 99 yards and a pair of interceptions and rushed for only 11 yards on 14 carries with a fumble.
Peach knew something had to change or the Colts were going to make an early playoff exit.
"I thought it was necessary to be honest with him," Peach said. "I called him in and just challenged him to be a better football player and to his credit he's taken that challenge and run with it."
Huffman responded with a steady performance in a 28-16 first-round victory over Keller Timber Creek, including 73 rushing yards and a pair of scores. He followed that with his best performance in a 27-20 victory over Abilene Cooper, throwing for a career-high 307 yards and a touchdown, and rushing for 89 yards and a score.
Huffman wasn't just dinking and dunking passes, he was throwing bombs, completing five passes over 40 yards, including four to receiver Isaiah Baker.
"Bake's about 6-foot-2, I love throwing to Baker. We've had some big moments in other games, too," Huffman said. "You know we're just clicking on all cylinders right now, it's awesome."
Arlington rolls into a Class 5A Division II Region I semifinal against Cedar Hill (8-4) at 2 p.m. Saturday at Mansfield's Newsom Stadium. It's the Colts' deepest playoff run since 2009, when they advanced to the regional finals, and their third regional semifinal appearance since Peach arrived in 2003.
"We're excited to be here in the third round of the playoffs making a deep run," Peach said. "The best thing about this football team is I've got a group of seniors that love the game of football. They want to continue to play for a long time and love it that much."
Jarret Johnson, 817-390-7760
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