Photo/James Pugh

Some memories aren’t meant to fade. The first touchdown Raven Arrington scored after the death of his father, Ike Mikell, is a memory that will be remembered throughout his lifetime. 

The slant route Arrington ran before his reach-and-grab near midfield versus Columbia, and the run to the end zone that followed, is not what Arrington will mainly remember. It’s what came after the touchdown that produced the emotion that night. “You did it,” Maurice, Arrington’s younger brother, and Taylorville team manager, shouted three times as he ran out to meet his brother in the end zone. 

Maurice, as Arrington recalls, was the first to reach him after the touchdown.

“I try to be the best role model for him that I can be,” said Arrington. “Scoring that touchdown and him being the first one to congratulate me brought so much joy and energy to me.”

It wasn’t the first family member the Taylorville wide receiver lost during his senior season. Just 10 days before the Columbia game, Arrington’s older brother Isaac Herring passed away due to liver failure. 

Arrington isn’t shy about telling the truth. Senior year is supposed to be a year of celebration and a joyous time with family, friends and classmates. For the most part, Arrington would rather forget the first half of his senior year.

“It’s been a tough year for my family and me,” said Arrington truthfully. “But these football guys whom I call my brothers, they’ve been with me every step of the way. 

They helped me through everything, and they’re always there when I need them. Even the coaches. They’re always there for me.”

Arrington shined on the field in the games that followed each death in the family. He put up 161 yards and two touchdowns on five catches against Mize. Two games later, and after the death of his father, the Mississippi Gulf Coast commit caught three passes for 102 yards. Two of those three catches resulted in scores. 

“I come to the football field to get my mind off everything,” said Arrington. “[The sadness] comes to my mind now and then, but it’s life and that’s going to happen. I have to get through it. I do it to be a good role model for those who look up to me.”

“All this just shows what kind of kid he is; it’s his character,” said Taylorsville head coach Mitch Evans earlier in the season. “He has the want to and grit in him. Just for him to come out on the field and perform at all is just a testament to what kind of kid he is.

“Its just Raven being Raven. I know its clique, but he comes to work every day and doesn’t say a word. He does his job, and he talks by the way he plays on the field.”

He finished his senior season with 1,187 yards on 54 catches and 13 touchdowns. His biggest game of the season came in Taylorville’s Region 5-2A opener versus rival Bay Springs. Arrington racked up 248 yards on nine catches and two touchdowns.

The rise and fall of a wide receiver starts with the quarterback, and Taylorsville has one of the best. Ty Keyes, who played in all but one game this season, tossed for 3,736 yards on 214 completions. He led the Tartars to back-to-back appearance in the MHSAA Class 2A title game. Arrington was his quarterback’s top receiver. The 5’9, 160-pound senior receiver led Taylorsville wide-outs in yards, catches, touchdowns and yards per game. The closest receiver to him is, Jalon Clark, finished with 718 yards on 37 catches and 10 touchdowns.

Good chemistry between Keyes and Arrington was the formula for their success.

“The quarterback we have is awesome,” Arrington said. “I’ve loved every moment playing with that guy. I can’t put all the credit on myself. 

“It was up to him and me to get these guys together and do what we were supposed to do. We had some younger guys that needed to have some examples to follow. When Ty and I got on the same page, things seemed to roll.”

Taylorsville fell short of the goal it set for the 2018 season, but not by far. After winning the 2A title in 2017 over Winona, the goal in 2018 was to repeat. With an injured Ty Keyes on the sideline, Taylorsville lost to Scott Central, 21-7, on Dec 1 at M. M. Roberts Stadium in Hattiesburg. Arrington finished the game with a few catches and no yards to show for it. 

“I had goals myself at the beginning of the year,” said Arrington. “I wanted to win a state championship in my senior year. Unfortunately, we came short of that. 

“My next goal was to be the best 2A player I could be and do things that haven’t been done before. I’ve done some of those so [there has been some success].

According to Maxpreps.com, with over a 1,000 yards receiving, Arrington ranks among the top 200 receivers across the nation. Several JUCO schools have offered scholarships. Mississippi Gulf Coast holds a commitment from Arrington so far. 

“It was a hard decision,” said Arrington about his decision to commit. “But Mississippi Gulf Coast treated me like family. I felt like that was the right place for me at the time, so I committed to them. So that’s my mindset right now.”

He will take other visits though to other schools like Hinds and Southwest. If Arrington goes to MGCCC, he will join former Taylorsville standout and wide receiver Perry Keys.