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Airedales host 7-on-7 Showcase 6/8/21

Airedales host 7-on-7 Showcase 


By Kevin Taylor

Alma Schools 


Build it and they will come. 


Bryan Smith's 7-on-7 vision started on the hot astroturf at Charleston's Alumni Field. Friday, it continues at Alma's Citizens Bank Field at Airedale Stadium. 


Fourteen schools from around the area, including state powers Har-Ber, Fayetteville, and Greenwood, will comprise 24 teams for the Lumber One 7-on-7 Showcase. Some schools will have multiple teams, including Alma. 


"This is the largest it's ever been," Bush said. "I would say it's got the most big schools it's ever had."


Bush believes Smith's Showcase has a chance to be one of the best around. 


"If you look at the big ones, the Shiloh (Christian) Southwest Elite, the P.A. (Pulaski Academy) 7-on-7, this one is going to stack up as good as anybody as far as the quality of teams and the quality of athletes and coaches," Bush said. "We're really excited to bring it to Alma."  


The 7-on-7 event is big for the Airedales, Bush said. The second-year Alma coach was hired as Doug Loughridge's replacement two years ago. 


But COVID ultimately wiped out the spring of 2020 and much of Bush's summer plans. Alma finished 2-8 during his inaugural season. 


Last year's 7-on-7 event was canceled. 


"Being my first time hosting it, I'm excited to see these teams roll in here and I'm excited to see our kids compete," Bush said. "It's time for us to see some other people and see how the 7-on-7 works."


It's still a work-in-progress for the Airedales who finished with a strong spring game. Fielding multiple teams Friday will give Bush a chance to see his quarterbacks Joe Trusty, Hunter McAlister, Derek Hatcher, and Jackson Daily battle against stellar competition. 


McAlister started six games for the Airedales in 2020. Trusty, who boasts a strong arm, transferred to Alma from Greenwood in January. Hatcher, who may see time at receiver, started one game in 2020. 


Last week, the Airedales competed in their first team camp in two years. For all but one player, it was their first-ever team camp. 


"They informed me there was only one kid on the bus that had been to a team camp before," Bush said. "The only kid who had been to a team camp was Conner Stacy. We took a bus load of kids to a nice team camp ... Greenwood, Russellville, Northside, Fayetteville, Pulaski Academy, and we were a little more flat than I had hoped. 


"But we got better as the day went on."


Hard competition makes for better football players, Bush said. 


"That's my purpose ... I want us to play better teams," he said. "I want them to see where the game is really, really fast, and then when we get into the 5A-West the game slows down a little bit. 


"Right now it's hot, the kids are having to go both ways against kids going one way, so it just makes us mentally tougher."


Bush plans to take the Airedales to the Ouachita Baptist University team camp Wednesday.


"We'll probably play schools a little more our size," he said. "We've got several team camps going; it's exciting to be out there with those kids. I've been here for 16 to 17 months, and it feels like for the first time we're preparing for a season.


"Last year, we were just hoping to have a season at this time, we weren't really preparing."