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Airedale football begins spring practice- 05/10/2021

By Kevin Taylor

Alma Schools 


A cool breeze and new faces were the order of business for second-year Alma football coach Rusty Bush. 


There are a number of issues facing the Airedales, including third-down deficiency and settling on a quarterback. 


But first and foremost, there were plenty of smiles. 


"It's nice to be back out there," Conner Stacy said. "We've got a new group of sophomores; it's fun. There's a lot of energy out on the field right now."


Stacy is the team's wildcard, a stellar athlete who split time at quarterback and receiver in 2020. 


Stacy, who caught 27 passes for 353 yards and three touchdowns in 2020, also started three games at quarterback, completing 44 percent of his passes for 259 yards. 


In all, Alma started four different players at quarterback in 2020. 


But this spring, the competition is centered around soon-to-be seniors Hunter McAlister and Joe Trusty and upcoming sophomore Jackson Dailey. 


"We've got to establish some things we were working on last year," Bush said. "We've got to become a lot more consistent on offense; be able to move the ball more consistently and be effective in the throwing game.


"Defensively, we have to learn schematically what we're doing."


The Airedales have some key defensive holdovers from 2020, including leading tackler Landon Burkhart (114 tackles), Devin Poole, Reagan Birchfield and Brady Noyes.


The Airedales allowed 341 yards per game in 2020, but struggled on third down, allowing 32 rushing touchdowns, and turned the ball over 19 times. 


Opponents converted nearly 54 percent of their third-down opportunities in 2020, and teams were just as successful (60 percent) when it came to converting fourth down. 


"We've got to learn to be disruptive on defense," Bush said. "We've got some new things in on defense, (but) it will take them a little bit of time. Offensively, I think we'll be a little more ahead than the defense."


This marks the first time the Airedales have been on the field for spring drills since May 2019. 


"Just to watch the speed that they practice at," Bush said. "I really didn't anticipate it being as good as it was. It was excellent to see kids running around and coaches yelling ... something they (players) haven't done for several months."  


The Airedales will play their first three games in Crawford County, including the season opener at rival Van Buren.


"I'm looking forward to the Van Buren game," Stacy said. "(The current class) has never been able to hold the bone (battle of the bone trophy)."