Gholson: Arnold symbolizes Raiders' dominance

Nick Gholson

Most of this game was played under gloomy, gray skies.

But in the fourth quarter, the sky turned blue and the bright sunshine broke through.

Quite appropriate for what was taking place Saturday afternoon at Memorial Stadium.

Yet as bright as the sun was, it didn't match the glow on the faces of all the Rider coaches and players.

You could tell that this one was special.

"We just made history," senior D.J. Arnold said, staring up at the scoreboard and admiring the final of Rider 33, Frenship 7 that told the story of what had just happened on Joe Golding Field.

Even old Joe himself was probably smiling down from above.

The Raiders have been playing football for 52 years, and this is the first time they have won four playoff games and reached the state semifinals.

The preparation that went into this game was obvious.

The Rider coaches had their kids ready to play. And they dominated 12-1 Frenship from start to finish on offense, defense and special teams.

This was the most complete game I have ever seen these Raiders play. And it came at just the right time.

They simply out-coached, outhit, outran and outplayed the Tigers from start to finish.

Coach Gar and his staff added a few surprising wrinkles to their usual game plan — like having quarterback Chase London flank out to the left as a receiver and moving Davon Allison over to quarterback.

Or how about the single wing with Carlos Fleeks taking the snap at tailback and Arnold lining up at fullback.

Arnold, in my opinion, was the symbol of his team.

He played offense, defense and special teams and contributed in every area. And the Raiders dominated every phase of the game.

Arnold's most shining moment came on defense just after Frenship free safety Hunter Douglas intercepted a tipped pass on Rider's first possession of the second half.

Arnold quickly came up with an interception of his own — his school-record eighth of the season. He returned it 40 yards inside Frenship territory and the Raiders cashed in with a 39-yard touchdown pass from London to Brylan McCoy that padded their lead to 25-7.

That interception and touchdown seemed to take all of the air out of a Frenship team bent on revenge after being blown out of the playoffs by Rider last year.

If this game was ever in doubt, that doubt ended with the quick second-half interception and touchdown.

"I was thinking that I had to go get one. We had to get our momentum back," Arnold said.

The Tigers were throwing, not because they wanted to, but because they had to.

Sacks by Caleb Levell, Josh Haisten, Cody Ribble and Trey Parker had pushed Frenship back and out of their comfort zone. The Tigers, facing third-and long, couldn't just hand the ball off to talented running back D'Maujeric Tucker to move the chains.

"He's a good player, but our linebackers and our D-line made it easier on us DBs," Arnold said.

Tucker, who averaged more than 200 running yards per game, had 159 against Rider, but the Raiders' defense made him earn it with 33 carries.

Arnold and the Rider secondary only allowed Frenship 55 passing yards.

"D.J. is a special kid. He is a tremendous player, a student of the game," Gar said of his do-everything senior.

"He really focuses on watching film. One day he is with us on offense working on what we are doing, and the next day he is with the defense learning what the other team's offense is doing."

"I will do anything that helps the team," Arnold said.

On Rider's two-point conversion that followed its last touchdown, Fleeks lined up at tailback with Arnold at his right, playing fullback.

"I called the play on that one," Arnold said. "I called '17.' "

And what is 17?

"Go to end zone," he answered with a big grin.

And Fleeks did just that, his third visit to the end zone in this game.

Fleeks, who ran for 131 yards and two touchdowns on just a dozen runs, has really come into his own late in the season. His presence has also opened up things for Domanic Thrasher.

"He comes from a family of great athletes," Gar said of his junior running back. "He is like his dad, big Carlos. He puts his hard hat on and comes to work every day. He wants to get better at something every day.".

His teammates also had that attitude of getting better every day.

Mission accomplished.

Frenship found that out the hard way on Saturday.

Sports Editor Nick Gholson can be reached at gholsonn@timesrecordnews.com or 940-720-3447.

© 2012 Times Record News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Season leaders

Passing:

1. Ben Davis, Graham (2,690Yds, 28TDs)
2. Chase London, Rider (2,389Yds, 28TDs)
3. Taylor Thomas, Olney (2,303Yds, 11TDs)
4. Zach Barton, Seymour (2,036Yds, 31TDs)


Rushing:

1. D. J. Thomas, Jacksboro (1,488Yds, 20TDs)
2. Cedric Battle, Hirschi (1,323Yds, 19TDs)
3. Michael Bishop, Electra (1,281Yds, 17TDs)
4. Marquis Askew, Burkburnett (1,254Yds, 8TDs)


Receiving:

1. Davon Allison, Rider (1,366Yds, 14TDs)
2. Bryce Reeves, Graham (1,043Yds, 11TDs)
3. Mike Clark, Olney (910Yds, 5TDs)
4. Dalton Jackson, City View (675Yds, 7TDs)
5. Cody Adams, Seymour (670Yds, 8TDs)


>> See complete stats


Tackles:

1. Zack Ballard, Olney (201)
2. Brady Brunson, Burkburnett (152)
3. Corey Luster, Vernon (135)
4. Gage Robinson, Bowie (132)
5. Elijah Hull, Hirschi (125)
6. Marcus Leija, Quanah (122)
7. Tristan Sherman, Holliday (113)
8. Garrett Johnson, Jacksboro (112)
9. Austin Martinez, Quanah (112)


Sacks:

1. Justin Silva, City View (10)
2. Treston Shepherd, Seymour (7)
3. Daytona Politakis, Nocona (7)
4. Kevin Stallcup, Bowie (7)
5. Cody Fletcher, Henrietta (7)
6. Garrett Johnson, Jacksboro (9)
7. Baltazar Castro, Seymour (6)
8. Logan Carter, Henrietta (6)
9. Tristan Willard, Nocona (6)


Interceptions:

1. David Stretcher, Jacksboro (6)
2. Brad Slade, Bowie (5)
3. Jay Ward, Bowie (5)
4. Hagen Hughes, Graham (5)
5. Mikey Feeze, Graham (4)


>> See complete stats


Passing:

1. Mitchell Parsley, Crowell (1,708Yds, 30TDs)
2. Cody McElroy, Notre Dame (1,677Yds, 33TDs)
3. Bryson Oliver, Throckmorton (1,286Yds, 27TDs)
4. Tyler Mays, Newcastle (922Yds, 18TDs)


Rushing:

1. Cody McElroy, Notre Dame (1,579Yds, 35TDs)
2. Trinity Haggard, Throckmorton (1,326Yds, 21TDs)
3. Aaron Baker, W. Christian (1,320Yds, 20TDs)
4. Chris Lewis, Knox City (1,214Yds, 19TDs)


Receiving:

1. William Hogan, Crowell (422Yds, 13TDs)
2. Nathan Wilson, Newcastle (419Yds, 8TDs)
3. Hayden Farquhar, Throckmorton (413Yds, 10TDs)
4. Michael Fantini, Notre Dame (410Yds, 4TDs)
5. Nathan Riley, Throckmorton (369Yds, 8TDs)

>> See complete stats


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