It's Arp-Daingerfield in Game of the Week

Arp quarterback Kyle Copeland leads the Tigers against three-time defending state champion Daingerfield on Friday. (Jaime R. Carrero | Tyler Morning Telegraph)

ARP -- Steve Edmond, goodbye.

Tyler Boyd, goodbye.

Barry Bowman, adieu.

Graduation and coaching changes have made Daingerfield a new-look program. Only nine starters returned from a 14-1 squad, plus coach Bowman is now at Paris.

But there’s more where the three consecutive Class 2A titles came from, Arp coach Dale Irwin said. And first-year Daingerfield coach Aric Sardinea has his squad ready for another run.

“They don’tre build,” Irwin said. “They reload.”

Arp and No. 1 Daingerfield meet in the Game of the Week, set for 7:30 p.m. today at Bill Herrington Tiger Stadium. It’s a rematch of last season’s opener for both teams, which Daingerfield dominated from beginning to end (44-14).

The key to avoiding another lopsided defeat is to control the ball and eat up the clock, Irwin said. That’s because Daingerfield has been stocked with 2A’s best athletes during the title stretch.

“We are going to have to possess the ball a lot,” Irwin said. “I’m talking 20- to 25-play drives.”

Arp, a 2A Division II regional semifinalist last season, returned six offensive and four defensive starters from a 6-7 squad. The Tigers caught fire at the right time last season, and hope that momentum carries over to this year.

The top returning starters include quarterback/defensive back Kyle Copeland and running back/linebacker Kasey McLendon, among others. Lineman Bryan McKnight (6-7, 290) is expected to miss the first two to three weeks with an ankle injury.

His absence means other players will asked to step in fill the void, a request Arp is getting used to these days. That’s because only 21 players will be on the varsity roster this week, compared to between 35 and 40 players in recent seasons.

The cause: Arp has a small senior class and most of the program’s numbers are found on the sub-varsity level. Only one sophomore is on the varsity roster, Irwin said.

“We want to win and we want to come out healthy,” Irwin said about tonight’s game. “If we do those two things we will feel successful. With our depth right now we are just building. We want to make sure we get better every week and prepare for our district schedule.”

Daingerfield should help that process along.

“They are more multiple on offense,” Irwin said. “Defensively they haven’t skipped a beat; they have 11 guys who can run to the ball. …and they are huge upfront. To me, they look almost the same.”

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