There weren't too many thrilled Arp fans on the night of Sept. 21. Their Tigers had just dropped a 33-13 decision to rival Troup, opening the door to doubters the week before district play began.

Count Arp head coach Dale Irwin among those not amused by the performance.

“It all comes down to one thing: (Troup) physically whipped us,” he said after the game. “They physically just dominated us up front.”

Irwin went on to say his team would learn from the loss, and promised that his team would be better because of it.

A couple months later, Arp holds the district-champion distinction having won six in a row and by a average score of 50-13.

Arp RB Mikechell Potts. (Christopher Vinn,
Arp RB Marcalas Johnson. (Christopher Vinn,

"Sometimes a loss like that helps you," Irwin said on Monday. "Fans don’t like to hear that and people in Arp don’t like it. We obviously didn’t want to lose the game, but it showed us some things we needed to improve on to help prepare us for district. We’ve gotten better because of it and hopefully it helps us in the playoffs.”

Arp (8-2) begins its postseason Friday in Buffalo against Crawford (9-2) in a Class 2A Division II Region III area playoff. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.

The Tigers had a bye last week, a reward for winning the District 10-2A D-I title. Although, not everyone sees the extra days off as a reward.

“It was alright, we got a lot of work done," Irwin said. "I didn’t really like it. You get in a rhythm during the course of the season and the kids have been playing real well lately. We just had a bye during district a couple weeks ago. I don’t want to gripe too bad, because we won district and that’s a prestigious honor. I just hate that we get out of our routine a little bit.”

What Arp's been doing to opponents lately can hardly be classified as routine. The Tigers have scored at least 50 points in their last three games.

At the heart of Arp's offensive explosiveness is its trio of playmakers in the backfield -- seniors Mikechell Potts and Michael Roberson and sophomore Marcalas Johnson.

“They are all three great players," Irwin said. "Michael Roberson and Potts are both seniors and they’ve played for us the last three years. Marcalas played a lot last year as a freshman and he’s a tremendous talent also."

The three have combined to rush for 2,506 yards and 37 touchdowns, or about 85 percent of Arp's rushing attack. Johnson leads the way 917 yards and 14 touchdowns. Roberson and Potts can hurt opposing defense as pass catchers as well. Roberson has totaled 1,359 yards of offense with 17 TDs, while Potts has combined for 1,196 and 18.

The talented trio collectively average 12.8 yards every time they touch the ball, which includes an absurd 16.3 yards-per-carry average for Roberson, who doubles as an all-state safety on defense.

"They do the little things we ask them to and that makes them better," Irwin said. "It gives us three weapons, and teams have to prepare for all three. As a defensive coordinator, it’s hard to prepare for all three of those kids.”

The thread holding it all together is junior quarterback Chase Bonner, who had to replace four-year starter Kyle Copeland.

“At the beginning of the year he was kind of out there with a wing and a prayer," Irwin said. "He didn’t know what to expect."

Bonner has shown steady improvement since the season opener. He's completed 61 percent of his passes for 1,160 yards and 14 touchdowns to just two interceptions.

"We tried to help him be in a good position to help make the team better, and he’s done a great job with that," Irwin said. "As we’ve gone along, he’s able to do more things as far as throwing the ball a little more. We’re real pleased with the his growth and the job he’s done.”

Irwin said Crawford, which ironically enough defeated Troup for a state championship in 2004, isn't flashy but worrisome nonetheless.

“Teams like that are scary because the kids believe in what they’re doing and are focused on everything they do," he said. "Sometimes teams like that are hard to deal with. We definitely have an advantage in speed and we’re going to try to utilize that to our benefit. But they’ve done a good job of keeping teams in front of them.”

The winner of Friday's matchup will take on the winner between Deweyville and Elysian Fields next week in a regional semifinal.