In the parking lot of Arlington High School, more than half an hour after the football team had sealed a close win, there still were students hanging about. For anyone within earshot, the “A-O-E” chants were heard.
It stands for “Arlington Over Everything” and has become the de facto motto for the athletic program. It’s belted loudly, and often, and the bleachers there quickly become a wave of maroon and gold.
All of it coalesces into what Admirals football coach Mike Morano called, “a charged atmosphere.”
Now add John Jay into that mix.
John Jay being Arlington’s biggest rival; the perpetual thorn in its side; the team that denied it a Section 1 championship two years ago; the team that eliminated it from the playoffs a year ago; the team now standing in its way of being 3-0.
“It’s almost a feeling of impatience; I just want it to be game time already,” Patriots running back Danny Diedrich said. “As a senior, playing your rival for potentially the last time elevated the meaning of the game incredibly.”
And for Arlington, the importance of the game already was heightened, in part because of two words: eight straight.
As in, John Jay has won eight straight games against Arlington. With that, it’s becoming a rivalry like that of the hammer versus the nail; kind of one-sided.
“I have the vivid memories of not being able to beat them the last two years,” said Jordan Valerius, the Admirals right tackle. “The new players don’t have that memory, but I’ve been there. And it’s definitely motivation.”
The Patriots, of course, downplay the win streak and “what happened in the past doesn’t matter,” John Jay coach Tom O’Hare said.
In most instances, that stance could be taken as the team on the favorable end not wanting to dwell on its success, or be perceived as belittling the opponent, or even risk jinxing itself.
But in this case, the past really does mean little. Given the turnover on both rosters and Arlington having a new head coach, that streak doesn’t say much about what the teams are now.
“It’s hard to not think about it because people do ask about it a lot,” Morano said of the losing streak. “But it was eight in a row against a different set of players and a different coach.”
“That tells you it’s a resilient team,” O’Hare said. “They’re gonna fight until the end, no matter what.”
As well, quarterback Austin Heck has emerged as a steady signal-caller. Jacob Pfeifer, Zac Dingee, EJ Escoto and Jon Fox have been playmakers in the secondary.
“We have to go in there believing that we’re the better team,” Valerius said. “We want to swing first and keep swinging.”
The Patriots have nine underclassmen on defense, but the unit has done well thus far, holding Carmel to nine points last week. The emergence of linebackers Calvin Anthony and Derek White have bolstered that group, and the defense has snagged five interceptions already.
Offensively, with star quarterback Ryan Schumacher graduated, the onus now is on Diedrich. The tailback is complemented well in the backfield by Dylan Burnett. The Patriots also have imposing size on both lines.
“The level of enthusiasm that the fans of both teams bring is exciting,” Morano said. ““It’s going to be wild.”
Added O’Hare: “We expect nothing less.”
Stephen Haynes: firstname.lastname@example.org, 845-437-4826, Twitter: @StephenHaynes4
The Journal is your source for high school football coverage throughout the 2016 season. Follow Journal reporter Stephen Haynes on Twitter at @StephenHaynes4 for live updates from the John Jay at Arlington game. A.J. Martelli (@AJM_PoJoSports) and Phil Strum (@PJStrum) will provide updates throughout the night on other games. Check http://www.poughkeepsiejournal.com for stories on all the games and an updating scoreboard.