ARLINGTON — Make no mistake about it, Jackson Arnold is the future for Guyer at quarterback. But in the blink of an eye Saturday — with the Wildcats’ state title hopes on the line — the future became now.
While everyone inside AT&T Stadium was distracted by starting quarterback Eli Stowers’ knee injury seven plays into Guyer’s first drive of the game, the 15-year-old Arnold was asked to put emotions and inexperience aside and find a way to pick up the pieces.
Austin Westlake capitalized en route to a 24-0 win in the Class 6A Division II state championship game.
Despite all of Arnold’s upside, everyone agreed it was a rough situation for any freshman to face.
“The kid has a major-league arm and is a good athlete,” Guyer coach John Walsh said. “But to play Austin Westlake in Week 16 as a freshman is a tall order. We kept getting behind the chains and not letting him get some momentum going. We had to help him more, and we didn’t.
“We were hoping to get him some reps in the playoffs – just not like this. It was an unfair situation.”
Arnold opened the season on the freshman team and was pulled up to varsity in October. Coming into Saturday, he only had one pass attempt on varsity. Against Westlake, he completed just two of his 11 attempts for 6 yards.
Much of that was because of Westlake’s ferocious defense, which was bent on stuffing Guyer’s run game to force the freshman to beat them.
Arnold was under duress all night while being sacked three times. He also tossed two interceptions.
“I don’t know how to explain it,” Arnold said. “It was rough … it was tough. I go [into the game] thinking that I’m not going to play today and that I’m going to watch Eli do his thing. To see him go down … a flood of emotions went through me. I knew I had to try and carry this team to victory.
“I just put my helmet on and did what my coaches told me to do.”
Immediately following the game, Arnold was seen being consoled by his family near the sideline. Walsh said that despite the result of the night, Arnold had absolutely nothing to hang his head about.
After all, he is the future of this program.
“He battled and had a good look in his eye, but it was an unfair situation,” Walsh said. “He’s going to be a great player for us. I think tonight’s experience will bode well for him — just not tonight. I told him that somewhere in the future, tonight’s experience will work for him.”