The Arlington High School football team is on track to surpass a historical marker set by the Colts team of 1987.
Today’s Colts are currently 8-0 and well on their way to playoffs, but they’re hoping to match a standard set by that team from three decades ago that made it all the way to the state semifinals.
That squad, who gathered last week for a 30-year senior class reunion, finished the season at 11-2-1. It was the farthest Arlington had gone since the team of 1951, which won the school’s only state title.
One thing this year’s team will not have to endure is the tie on the record.
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That tie became a historical artifact of Texas high school football in addition to actually ending the season for Arlington.
Texas had yet to implement a tiebreaker overtime system so that state semifinal game ended in a 35-35 tie with Odessa Permian.
Permian advanced to the state finals by virtue of two more first downs than Arlington. The first criteria was penetrations – the number of times a team could reach their opponent’s 20-yard line or deeper. Those were even at five each.
“We didn’t lose that game,” said former defensive back Trent Thomas. “We just didn’t advance.”
Permian went on to play Dallas Carter in the state finals and the movie “Friday Night Lights” had their script.
But that season, marking the longest playoff run for Arlington in more than 25 years, was something that went beyond the playing field.
Other team captains in 1987 were Jay Whillock (offensive line), Chris Cordero (defensive back), Jason Bowers (linebacker) and Trent Woody (DB).
Woody said plenty of new experiences and a palpable town unity is what consistently sticks in his mind.
“The further we went in the playoffs, the more people that followed us,” Woody said. “It was just crazy in Arlington. When we’d leave town on the bus, every street had green and white streamers. There wasn’t that many people at Arlington High. It was the whole city.
“The community and everybody got behind us. Lamar, our hated rival, they were even Colt fans for three weeks.”
Thomas noted that Haltom and L.D. Bell were the strong-horses of the conference at that time. Those two games were the only losses on the Colts’ record that year.
Arlington lost to Haltom, 19-3, and to Bell, 9-6.
So, it came down to the final games of the regular season to determine if Arlington would even make the postseason.
After losing to Bell, Arlington had to win out and needed Trinity to lose its final game against Lamar.
That Lamar team, coached by Eddy Peach, beat Trinity and, coupled with the Arlington win over Burleson, pushed the Colts into the playoffs.
The Colts picked off their first three opponents, beating Irving MacArthur, 13-0, Lewisville, 21-3, and then Midland Lee, 27-7.
Arlington head coach Mike O’Brien was like his counterparts at Sam Houston, Martin and Lamar, able to pick up athletes from the recently closed Arlington Bowie just a year previous, Thomas recalled.
“That seemed to make Arlington so much smaller than it really was,” Thomas said. “By the playoffs, the whole town was pulling for you. It was like Arlington reverted back to a one-high school town and we didn’t want to let them down.”
The Colts were known for their size and quickness. Their matchup with Permian seemed to stack up in the Colts’ favor.
Playing a team from West Texas presented a type of mystique, though, according to Woody.
“It was like playing a team from another country,” he said.
Woody also recalled the atmosphere of that game which spilled over to pregame band battles.
“There were stories about the two bands bumping trumpets and tubas. It was getting crazy,” Woody said of the hyped atmosphere.
Permian was Goliath about to take on the Davids of Arlington.
“Once we strapped on the helmets, we didn’t care,” Woody added. “We took them to town early. But they came out like Superman in the second half. That season, though, brought the town together for a short time. There are some pretty special memories for everybody.”
The current Colts have two games remaining until the playoffs. They’ll face Arlington Sam Houston at 7 p.m. Thursday and then close the regular season out against fellow unbeaten Lamar (8-0, 5-0) at 7 p.m. on Nov. 8.
Arlington is led by quarterback Jahari Rogers, who has thrown for 1,176 yards and 12 touchdowns against only 2 interceptions this season. He’s also rushed for 392 yards and a team-leading seven touchdowns. B.J. rogers leads the team with 406 rushing yards and has scored three times on the ground.
Rogers’ favorite target is Texas Tech three-star wide receiver commit Trey Cleveland, who leads the team with 24 receptions for 531 yars and four touchdowns. They connected for a 99-yard touchdown last week in a 52-19 win over North Crowley.
Arlington is averaging 46 points per game on offense and is holding opponents to just 19.8 ppg.