ARLINGTON – Those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer don’t seem to be having any effect on Arlington’s standout senior quarterback Anthony Whitis or the rest of the Eagles team.
“We’ve embraced it,” Whitis, who said he’s finally hit the 6-foot mark, said Wednesday after the team’s third practice indoors because of the smoke from Northwest wildfires.
Coach Greg Dailer agreed. “The (wrestling) mat room has worked great for tackling,” he said, adding they’ve been able to work on everything but the kicking game because of the low ceiling in the gym.
Dailer said the district follows the smoke index: if it’s 100 or below, no restrictions; if it’s 100-150 they can be outside but not for conditioning; and if it’s 150 or over they must be inside.
Arlington opens its season Aug. 31 at Mariner. Other local teams have Marysville Getchell at Shorecrest; Marysville-Pilchuck hosts Snohomish; and Lakewood plays at Kings.
Whitis is one of the top players returning in the Wesco North, after being named all-league last year.
He thanks his grandparents, who adopted him as a newborn, for getting him involved in sports at an early age.
“They’re super supportive,” he said. “They took me in and virtually have been my mom and dad; it’s all I’ve ever known.”
He also said he’s had some terrific coaches and mentors who helped him excel. “It’s a culmination of my whole life being taught by various people,” he said.
His friends also have played a role. “I’ve met every friend to this day” through sports, he said. “If it wasn’t for sports I don’t know what I’d be doing.”
While Whitis has a strong and accurate arm, Dailer said his greatest strength is his knowledge of the game.
Whitis agreed. “I can help put people in position to succeed,” he said.
A lot of players come to him for guidance. Some even call him “Coach Whitis.” He said he knows the playbook and doesn’t yell like the coaches do.
“Even linemen might ask what to do on a certain play,” Whitis said.
Whitis said he likes that role. “They appreciate it. It’s easier than running over to a coach.”
He likes it so much he might want to be a QB coach or offensive coordinator in the future. But then he also might go into law enforcement. He’s trying not to think about playing football or basketball in college yet. “When the time comes I’ll make a decision. I want to focus on the season and not distractions,” he said.
As for goals this year, Whitis isn’t too specific. “I want to leave everything out on the field” every game, he said. “I want to be the best quarterback and best teammate I can be. And I want the team to make it as far we can.”
As for the team, he said there is a lot of talent and if they use it right and are dedicated, “The sky’s the limit.”
Whitis lost two great receivers in Campbell Hudson and Cooper Cummings from last year, but the signal-caller said he thinks the passing game could be even better this season because of the depth. “This year we don’t lose a step at all,” he said.
Dailer said the team should compete for the title in the Wesco North. He said the offensive line is strong and should give their QB good protection.
He has coached some outstanding quarterbacks, but said Whitis “essentially could be the best ever and could break most of the passing records, but he’s got a lot of work to do.”
Whitis is so busy with sports he doesn’t have time for much else. He likes to hang out, play video games, referee games at the Boys and Girls Club, and he recently started working at the new Popeye’s.
Known as “QB1,” Whitis admitted he’s been more focused in learning football and basketball than academics. “My work ethic with homework has not always been there,” he said, but added he does well in school.
During practice, Whitis talked to the scout team QB about trying a pump fake. “Trust me it works,” he said.
When he was behind center, he yelled, “Go,” drawing some defensive linemen offsides. “Watch the ball,” a coach yelled to those penalized players.
“Come on guys, you gotta think,” a player on the sidelines said.
Whitis looked over at Dailer for the signal for which play to run as Arlington uses a no-huddle offense. The senior signal-caller has been the Eagles starting QB already for 1 1/2 seasons.
“It’s very reassuring,” Dailer said with a huge smile.