Ben Carroll and Duson Sproles want to take Arlington High football back to the good old days.
As the school district’s oldest high school, the good old days could mean a lot of points in time. But to Carroll and Sproles, it refers to the streak of six consecutive playoff appearances that came to an end last season.
Carroll, a junior linebacker/strong safety, had an older brother on the 2012 Colts squad that advanced three rounds deep in the playoffs. Arlington opened the 2015 season last week with a 57-37 win over Duncanville at UT Arlington’s Maverick Stadium.
“We’re just kind of coming together as a team, kind of like the old Arlington High School,” Carroll said. “I had an older brother who played here, so I remember the time when he played and how they played.”
The younger Carroll plays with the intensity of the leaders on past winning squads, defensive coordinator Rick Keith said. “Ben Carroll is the heartbeat of our defense,” Keith said. “He played with the most emotion on our defense as a sophomore in a group of seniors.”
Sproles, a senior running back, is at the heart of Arlington’s hoped-for resurgence on offense. The Colts leaned heavily on their ground game in 2014 but struggled when it came time to pass. Senior quarterback Caelen Day is expected to reignite the passing game, while Sproles could be the next dominant Arlington tailback.
“It’s going to be more fast-paced,” Sproles said of the offense. “We’ve upped the tempo. We want to get as many snaps as possible. This year we plan on being the fastest team in our district.”
Sproles has planned on this opportunity for a while. It’s his turn to get the bulk of the carries. He averaged nearly five yards per carry and scored three touchdowns (two of those on catches) as a junior playing behind the now-graduated Raymond Sheard. Sheard rushed for 1,500 yards in 2014.
“I plan to give it my all. Everybody needs to go 110 percent,” Sproles said. “If everybody does that, everybody can succeed in their goals.”
Rashad Anderson, a junior wide receiver in his first season on varsity, said Sproles is in charge of keeping everyone on offense energized. “Duson’s a great leader,” Anderson said. “He brings a tempo, he brings what we need. … He gets me hyped. He gets us going.”
Sproles plans to churn up a ton of yards this season — no really, he hopes to rush for nearly 2,000 yards — but his experience playing fullback in spots last season has helped him also value doing the dirty work that helps set his teammates up for big plays.
“Blocking is nothing new,” Sproles said. “I enjoy blocking. It’s something I don’t mind doing. Blocking for the quarterback isn’t a problem for me.”
Nothing about the physical side of football is a problem for Sproles. “I’m more of a punishing running back,” he said. “I’m explosive, but I’m not just going to hit the hole and break away. I pound it in there and get it down the field. I love the contact.”
Sproles said his teammates share his physical mindset. “There’s a lot more energy, a lot more heart this year,” Sproles said. “We work together as a team. We don’t have the divisions like last year.”
Carroll and Sproles won’t spend too much time thinking about the past. There’s plenty of reason for optimism about the present — and the future.
“Hopefully we’re getting back to this new tradition of Arlington High School: consistent, aggressive, violent,” Carroll said.