DENTON, Texas — Most high school quarterbacks dream of playing in the state championship game. In 2019, that dream came true for Jackson Arnold. It was just under different, more stressful circumstances.
Denton Guyer’s starting quarterback at the time, Eli Stowers, tore his PCL and meniscus in his left knee on the Wildcats’ seventh play from scrimmage.
“[Eli] stayed down and I was thinking get up, man. Get up. Get up. But he didn’t get up and I had to go in,” Jackson said. “I was extremely nervous. I was shaking actually. It was just a surreal moment."
The Wildcats were shut out by Westlake that day, 24-0. It was a bitter end to the Denton Guyer season and a sour start to Jackson’s career. But one man, who was watching the game unfold from the stands, thought otherwise. That man happened to be Denton Guyer’s current head coach, Rodney Webb.
“I can just remember a young, big-eyed freshmen kid with hair hanging down on his face. And I remember in that moment of time, this is going to kill him or make him stronger and it made him stronger,” Coach Webb said.
“I learned quickly if you make a bad decision it’s probably an interception or a fumble,” Jackson said. “So it just taught me how to play the game at a higher level.”
Fast forward nearly two years later, that higher level shined in a heated rivalry game against Denton Ryan. Jackson threw the game-tying touchdown and the game-winning touchdown in overtime. In doing so, the Wildcats handed the Raiders their first regular season loss since 2014.
“I mean it was awesome. It was the ultimate pride game and we came out on top. This is our city now,” Jackson said proudly.
It’s also his team now. He’s no longer the nervous 15-year-old kid in the title game. He's no longer Eli Stower’s backup. He’s the man and the Wildcats’ new QB1.
“Ever since I was little I’ve always loved the game,” said Jackson. “I love the competitiveness that comes with football."
His competitiveness bleeds into practice, which contributes to his development as a starting quarterback.
“I think I’ve progressed a lot as a player and I think that what I’ll contribute to the team will help us make it to state this year,” said Jackson.