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Airedales face rival Pointers

Battle of the Bone

Airedales face rival Pointers 

 
By Kevin Taylor
Alma Schools 
 
Alma coach Rusty Bush knows a thing or two about high school football rivalries. 
 
He's been involved in one in college, too. 
 
Bush becomes the fourth Alma head football coach to coach in the "Battle of the Bone" Friday, a span covering nearly 45 years. 
 
Alma is 25-18 in the last 43 seasons. Van Buren leads the all-time series, 38-30-1. 
 
Bush has coached in the "Battle of Rogers Avenue" rivalry involving Northside and Southside. A graduate of Henderson State, he was involved in the "Battle of the Ravine" involving HSU and Ouachita Baptist University     a series that dates to 1907. 
 
The Pointers are one step ahead, having beaten Springdale in last week's "zero week" game by a count of 42-24. Quarterback Gary Phillips had three touchdowns in the win. 
 
But Van Buren had explosive plays on both sides of the ball. Baylor Shook returned a fumble 98 yards for a touchdown and Jaiden Henry had a 98-yard kickoff return for another score. 
 
"I coached against that football team last year at Northside, in a different role, but Gary Phillips and Jaiden Henry are just a year better, a year older, and they're magnificent football players," Bush said. "They're as good of players as there are in the state, and definitely in this region - they can play for anybody at any level."
 
The Airedales' roster includes a handful of defensive holdovers from 2019. But the team has but one returning offensive lineman (Seth Cole) and whoever starts at quarterback, Connor Stacy, Hunter McAlister or Brayden Allen, will be making their first official varsity start. 
 
"The main thing we can't do is turn the football over," Bush said. "We've got to establish something with our running game; we've got to be able to get out on the perimeter. But the main thing we can't do is turn the football and give an offensive, like that (Van Buren), another shot. We've got to get some first downs and we've got to be really good in the kicking game.
 
"The key right now is not turning the football over and winning the kicking game."
 
Senior Dane Martin, who kicked a 33-yard field goal during Alma's scrimmage with Southside three weeks ago, will handle the kicking duties. 
 
Defensively, the Pointers' T.J. Dyer and Easton Mongold present a challenge, Bush said.
 
"Defensively, they've got some guys playing both ways, but T.J. Dyer, I've watched him from the Van Buren and Alma film," Bush said. "He's a good mike (middle linebacker) and downhill runner. Easton Mongold, anchors their line at left tackle.
 
"That's a really good football team and it will be a challenge for us."