Senior quarterback Arnold leads CAHS to seventh straight title


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ST. THOMAS - Dusk settled over Vendors Plaza on a recent evening and Patricia Arnold peacefully packed her belongings.

The bustling tourist hub where she has braided hair for years provides an income on which she has raised six children as a single parent. The fifth child, Elisha Arnold, was about a mile away finishing a workout on the Charlotte Amalie High School track.

On this night, any worry regarding the often-troubled youth was at a motherly minimum; her calm an extension of the tranquil water rolling over the rocks just yards away from her roadside setup along the waterfront.

The ease was not always there. Elisha, the 2012 Virgin Islands Daily News' Football Player of the Year, was prone to fighting, and Patricia received countless phone calls from his schools. A dispute with an assistant coach led to a two-game suspension for the quarterback's final season at CAHS.

"They used to call me all the time," she said from the perch where she has braided thousands of heads. "I would get mad, but God's spirit would tell me don't treat him as other people would. Just take that time and love him and show him the love that he needs and I just showed him that love and let him know that I am there for him no matter what. And I said to him that I believe he is a chosen child of God, so he will have trouble, but God is there with him."

Elisha agreed he had a tough time staying out of trouble.

"I was a bad egg, man," he said. "I fought a lot, a lot. Got into a lot of trouble. So yeah, she prayed, I prayed and God just came through."

Faith has been a key component in Elisha's maturation. The biblical translation of his name is "God is my salvation," and it is something the family does not take lightly. When his mother thought her encouragement was not enough, she enlisted the help of the family's pastor, the Rev. Lennox Zamore of Ebenezer Memorial Baptist Church.

"He started telling me I should play more sports 'cause I played basketball all my life. I played football, I played baseball and I played soccer," Elisha said. "I was good at all sports, and he just keep pushing to play more sports. People would tell me come on inside and play instead of being in the streets and doing bad."

Touchdown machine

Elisha is waiting for scholarship offers and will make a decision on where to attend college after coaches see him perform at a scouting combine on St. Thomas in March. After playing three different positions in his first three years with the CAHS varsity tackle football team, he yet again took on a new role as a senior.

While under center last fall, he led the Chickenhawks to a seventh straight IAA territory title. Elisha ran for 11 touchdowns and threw for seven in just five games and CAHS finished 6-1. The team was undefeated in the territory and the lone loss came on Puerto Rico against a collection of that territory's top prep players.

"I could run, I could pass, so they can't focus on one thing," Elisha said. "If they come with one, I give them another thing. Play the pass, I run. If they play the run, I pass, so it really gave me the upper hand. It gave me the edge on most defenses."

CAHS coach Francisco Jarvis expected the level of output his quarterback produced and first noticed the potential when Elisha was playing junior varsity basketball as an 8th-grader at Addelita Cancryn Junior High School.

"Elisha came to us as a young 9th-grader, wide-eyed from Cancryn and I made a prediction back then as a 9th-grader that he would go to college to play college football if he stayed with it," Jarvis said.

Elisha had a basketball-first mentality at the time and "hated" football before Jarvis instilled him with confidence.

"I said I will never play football, and then we were over on St. Croix for a basketball tournament and Jarvis, he came to me after the game," Elisha said. "We played against Charlotte Amalie for junior varsity and he was like, 'Something about you I like,' and he was telling me, like, I'm just different from all the other players. He said he likes my attitude, and he asked me how would I like to play football for him."

Older brother Patrice Arnold, 20, played for Jarvis and encouraged Elisha to pursue the game. It provided him a physical outlet to channel the anger that too often led to fighting.

Suspension effect

Elisha was slapped with a two-game suspension to start the season following an off-the-field dispute with former assistant coach Ray Husband. The school dismissed Husband and banned their quarterback for a game. Jarvis added the second game.

"Whether you do good or bad, people are going to talk. That's what Jarvis was trying to get me to understand," Elisha said. "He wanted me to understand that wherever you go there are going to be coaches who are going to tell you things you don't like, but you have to cope with it. You're gonna have to live with it and let it go. Bygones be bygones, just let it be."

The team won both games. CAHS beat Ivanna Eudora Kean High, 14-0 and the St. Thomas-St. John Private Schools Arawaks, 22-8.

"I tried to show the team that football isn't about one person," Jarvis said. "It's about a team believing in a goal, and you try to overcome that goal despite whatever adversities you face. And that's what I wanted to show and I wanted to show Elisha too that we could win without you, and just like football was given to you and you're doing so well, football can be taken away from you."

In his debut, Elisha ran for three touchdowns and threw for another in a 48-0 rout of St. Croix Educational Complex. In rematches with Kean and the Arawaks, the Chickenhawks proved stronger behind their dynamic leader, beating the Devil Rays, 36-10, and the Arawaks, 56-32. Elisha accounted for four touchdowns in each game.

The suspension forced him to realize the problem with his temper and he again turned to his mother for guidance.

"I would tell him, 'Just leave this behind. Even if whoever wants to keep you down, just love them still. Love them by loving them, then your heart will be freed and you will have time to play freely.' " Patricia Arnold said. " 'Because if you have a grudge and holding things in your heart, no matter what, you don't feel comfortable.' "

Elisha plans to study psychology or architecture, and said math is a favorite subject. He hopes to keep totaling impressive numbers on the field, the basketball court and through his studies en route to a more stable life away from an environment that draws a lot of youth toward "the bad stuff."

"I don't want to come back," he said, "But if I do come back, yeah, I think I'll come back because I want to help, you know? I've been helped a lot, so giving back would be something I want."

- Contact Tim Chapman at 714-9102 or tchapman@dailynews.vi.

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