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Thrift Thrives Amid Alma's Brotherhood 10/15/21

Thrift thrives amid Alma’s ‘brotherhood’

By Kevin Taylor

Alma Schools 


The smile on Ethan Thrift’s face is one of the first things offensive line coach Vander Bowden looks for at the start of every practice. 


Ethan Thrift rarely disappoints. 


“He’s a pretty happy-go-lucky kid you enjoy coaching,” Bowden said. “He’s a little undersized, but he does everything exactly the way you coach him.”


In reality, Thrift was born with green and gold blood. The amicable Airedale who remembers riding on little league football floats and cheering on those before him had the same delightful outlook on life he carries with him today. 


“When I was a little kid, I remember sitting up in the stands patting people on their helmets and saying, ‘Come on, man!’ Just being able to do that, seeing the little kids interacting with you now, gives me so much pride,” Thrift said. “Then, at homecoming, with all the little kids and people that come out, it’s an awesome feeling.”


Back in his Alma Primary and Intermediate school days, Thrift suited up for the Seahawks and Eagles. 


He remembers the names of his teammates, too. “Brayden Taylor, Hunter Prescott, Dylan Mitchell ... Drake Beard,” he said. “That was so much fun.”


Thrift’s senior season is already halfway over, he and his teammates will saddle up Friday with a chance to improve their playoff status. 


After losing two in a row to open the season, the Airedales have won three of four, including two of their first three conference games. Beating Morrilton this week, coupled with a Harrison upset of Vilonia would pull the Airedales into a three-way tie for second place. 


Unbeaten Greenbrier (6-0, 3-0) faces winless Pea Ridge this week. 


“This team is based on brotherhood,” Thrift said of his teammates. “If you don’t trust the guy beside you, we’re not going to win anything.”


The “Brotherhood” helped the Airedales grind out an old-school 14-0 win over Clarksville last week by churning out 191 yards on the ground. More importantly, Thrift and Co. played keep-away from the Panthers by snapping the ball 20 more times than their counterparts and holding it for 28:22. 


“We practiced the right calls all week and coach Bowden pushed us to get prepared,” Thrift said. “He does it every week.”


Alma won in convincing fashion despite being forced to shuffle the offensive line. Starting center Nathan Smith, who’d only recently moved to center, was injured in the second half of Alma’s game. With backup center Zane Hurlburt already out (he too was injured in the first half), the Airedales held the rope, and the ball, while finishing off the Panthers. 


“We can’t do anything without them,” dual-threat standout Conner Stacy said. “They do a lot of the dirty work; a lot of people in their position wouldn’t enjoy their job. But they make the best of it.”


Thrift helped keep things in order by holding down his left tackle spot. He also provided a key block for Devin Poole to convert a key third-and-seven that paved the way for a nine-yard run. 


“No. 1, he’s a two-year starter,” Alma coach Rusty Bush said. “All of those guys (Smith, Hurlburt, R.J. Billingsly, and Parker Judson) have done a tremendous job for us. Anytime you get a guy with that much experience it’s a big plus. 


“He’s (Thrift) a great leader and a great worker.”


“I’ve basically been all around the O-line,” Thrift said. “My sophomore year, I played right guard. I played both guards as a junior because he was a pulling guard.”


Thrift and his offensive linemates don’t go unnoticed by Alma’s skill players, most notably, Stacy. 


“He’s really good about doing his assignment and executing,” Stacy said. “I try to give some praise to them because we couldn’t do anything without those front five, and sometimes six or seven depending on what package we’re in.


“Those guys go unnoticed.”


“They do their job really well,” receiver BriLee White said. “Without them, as Conner said, we couldn’t do anything.”


The praise is much appreciated.


“Oh, every single play,” Thrift said. “Every time we get five yards or more, they’re (backs) always patting us on our backs saying, ‘Good job, good job!’


“When we’re in the tent (sideline) watching the TV (replays), they’re always encouraging us. We feed off of that because without them we wouldn’t have any star-makers.”

Thrift didn’t necessarily reinvent himself between this season and last. But he did his best to bulk up. 


“He was a little light last year,” Bush said. “He’s put on several pounds. Plus, he worked his tail off to put himself in position to be a starter and be a dominant football player for us this year.”


“He’s going up against 310-pound linemen and he holds his own,” Bowden said. “Overall, he’s been very consistent for us.”