Teams to Watch: Arlington Martin Warriors

THROUGHOUT THE 2017 SEASON, WE'LL SPOTLIGHT TEAMS THAT FLEW UNDER THE RADAR ENTERING THE SEASON, BUT DELIVERED BIG RESULTS WHEN THEY STEPPED ON THE FIELD. TODAY'S TEAM IS ARLINGTON MARTIN, OFF TO A 2-0 START AFTER UPENDING BOTH SKYLINE AND SOUTHLAKE CARROLL.

When Arlington Martin senior Juma Otoviano made the switch from running back to quarterback in the offseason, there was little question about his playmaking ability in the backfield.

What’s been more impressive to coach Bob Wager is Otoviano’s control of the offense.

Otoviano’s play has the Warriors rolling early in the season, as Martin has knocked off both Skyline and Southlake Carroll in convincing fashion to open the year. Otoviano has been lights out on the ground, as expected, rushing for 278 yards and eight touchdowns while adding 294 yards and a score through the air.

“You have a lot of moving parts on offense, and now he’s orchestrating all of them,” Wager said. “It’s a credit to the commitment he made from last season to now and really the commitment he made back in ninth grade. He’s a total commitment player that every coach and team member respects.”

After beating Skyline 57-26 on the road to open the season, the Warriors returned home to face Carroll last week and found themselves in a first-half shootout. But with a few halftime adjustments, Martin responded by outscoring Carroll 28-6 in the second half for a 50-33 victory.

“I was awful proud of the effort to play four quarters against a really quality opponent,” Wager said. “We were far from perfect, but to see a team go out there and battle this time of year – I was really proud.”

The win moved Martin to a perfect 2-0 heading into their final non-district matchup of the year Friday against South Grand Prairie, and the Warriors will be looking to improve 3-0 for the first time since 2011.

Martin fell to South Grand Prairie 39-25 last year and went on to drop the District 4-6A opener to Arlington Bowie 12-10, so the team will be looking to use this week’s rematch as a springboard into district play this season.

“It’s extremely important,” Wager said. “I think you learn a lot about yourself three games into the year. These are the three games where we actually get to pick who the opponent is. We make each other better, and that’s what this non-district schedule is about.”

While Otoviano’s big numbers have snatched a lot of the headlines through the first two games, Wager credited a much-improved offensive line for the team’s early offensive success.

The presence of a few other playmakers doesn’t hurt either, as the Warriors have coveted tight end prospect Brayden Willis (213 yards, 1 TD) in addition to running backs Montrell Smith (149 yards, 2 TDs) and Trejon Henderson (2 TDs).

Smith and his twin brother Kentrell (78 yards, 1 TD) are the younger brothers of former Martin star and current North Texas running back Nic Smith, who graduated in 2016 with 3,803 yards and 66 career touchdowns. He is the all-time leading scorer in Arlington ISD history.

“It all starts with the run for us,” Wager said. “We’ve never hidden the fact that our objective is to play physical football and run the ball. The first responsibility for all those guys though is to be a good faker and a good blocker – it requires them to do the dirty work as well as the things that get them in the newspaper.

“I’ve been very pleased not only with their performance, but with their investment in the offseason to be able to block 50 snaps a game.”

It’s still early in the year and there is a long way to go before the postseason rolls around, but Wager expressed optimism in his team’s ability to compete for a district championship this season.

“There are a lot of rivalry games and a ton of emotion built into those district matchups,” Wager said. “Our capabilities will be determined by our willingness to be uncomfortable, not to oversimplify it. If we continue to go out and be excited about practice, I think we can have a terrific football team.”

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Brady Keane is a contributing wrter for Dave Campbell’s Texas Football. Follow him on Twitter: @BradyKeane.

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