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Bush, Airedales Push Forward 8/12/21

Bush, Airedales push forward

By Kevin Taylor

Alma Schools 


Alma football coach Rusty Bush had his hands tied for much of 2020. COVID-19 restrictions, a lack of summer contact, and an inexperienced roster led to a 2-8 season in the fall of 2020.  

But last December, as the first round of COVID-19 was near its peak, Bush and his assistants went to work. 

"At the end of the football season, it (COVID) started clearing up a little bit," Bush said. "We had a great off-season. We focused on putting on some body weight; we were a lot smaller and a lot weaker than everybody else. Coach (Zach) Jones and our strength staff did a really good job of putting weight on our bodies — something we desperately needed.

"We put our guys in a great position for the upcoming year."

Alma had a good spring, too. 

"The numbers are a little bit down but the kids that showed up this summer want to be here," Bush said. 

The Airedales opened fall camp with 56 players. Bush said he was more concerned with surviving the first two weeks of the Delta variant, the fourth form of COVID-19, than anything else.

“Like everybody else, we're moving forward, but it’s hard because we just don’t know (how bad the Delta variant) may get,” he said. 

Bush said he feels good about quarterbacks Joe Trusty and Jackson Dailey, both of whom he said could play if called on tomorrow. "I wouldn't be scared to put either one of them in a football game right now," Bush said. 

The two-week dead period seemed to rejuvenate the pair.

"Before the dead period, I thought we were struggling a little bit at the quarterback position," Bush said. "We came back and played in the Shiloh (Christian) tournament, and both of them had a couple of pretty good days. Now we're back and just focusing on ourselves, and they're both doing tremendous. They're learning the offense and we as coaches are learning what they're good at."

Quarterback Hunter McAlister played well at the end of 2021 but decided not to return in order to concentrate on his senior basketball season.

Devin Poole, Brady Noyes, and Eric Dover are getting the bulk of the running back reps. 

"We've got to be able to establish the run," Bush said. "We've got to have an identity, which we didn't have last year. We feel really good where we're at offensively."

Conner Stacy and BriLee White are both looking for big senior seasons, the coach said.

"Conner is going to have to be able to tote the mail," Bush said. "He's going to play on both sides of the ball. More importantly, guys like BriLee White, Matthew Schlegel, Derek Hatcher, and Devin Ramos are going to have to step up and play a big role."

Alma's strength, Bush said, will be upfront. "This is about as good of an offensive line as we're had," he said. "They've all played significant time."

Bush moved Nathan Smith from center to guard to allow for more time on defense. 

"Nathan’s going to have to play both ways; he’s going to play nose guard," Bush said. "Offensively, you can't lose that guy at the center, so we've moved Nathan to guard.”

Zane Hulbert will anchor the offensive line at center, and Dakota Stallings will be a backup. 

Defensively, the Airedales expect to be as good as ever at the linebacker position. “Linebacker is where we should excel,” Bush said. 

Poole, twins Landon and Levi Burkhart, Reagan Birchfield, Noah Downs, and Schlegel and Ramos are expected to contribute.

 “All those guys are back,” Bush said.

Sophomore Ian Rhoads had a really good summer, Bush said. Justice Lincks has worked hard, the coach said. 

Smith and Zander Pulido could wreak havoc on the defensive line. The 6-foot-3, 260-pound Pulido may get some shots at tight end, too. 

“Right now he’s dominating in fall camp,” Bush said. “He’s going to give us some snaps at tight end, too. If you roll our five (offensive linemen) out there, plus Pulido, we’re really big.”