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Alma’s Cole couldn’t wait to be an Airedale

Alma’s Cole couldn’t wait to be an Airedale


By Kevin Taylor, Alma Schools 

Alma right tackle Seth Cole (center) blocks during last week's game with Clarksville.

Seth Cole was larger than life as a six-year-old t-ball player, towering over 3-and-half-foot snot-nosed 5-year-olds at first base, his left-handed batting glove snugly fit underneath his giant first baseman's mitt. 


“Hi, my name is Seth!”


But it was football that seemed to always tug at his heartstring the most.


Seth Cole couldn't wait to become an Alma Airedale. 


"We lived in Fort Smith but they (parents) liked the (Alma) school district and the athletic program," he said. "Growing up here and being an Airedale is something different. We talk about it every day in practice — the 'A' on the side of your helmet and 'Alma' on the front of your jersey means so much more. 


"This is a football community; football is a sacred thing here."


The Airedales (1-5, 0-3) will host Viloinia Oct. 23.  


An only child, Cole's dad, Shannon, grew up in Van Buren. Mom Angela is a Malvern native. 


"My mom went to work for ArcBest (formerly ABF) and they (parents) met on a blind date," Cole said. "It was definitely a little bit of a change for him (Shannon), rooting for the darker green, but he likes it now."


Cole's been on an emotional rollercoaster the last two seasons, from last season’s playoff push to the reshuffling of the coaching staff, to the painful reality of COVID-19. 


Alma coach Doug Loughridge transitioned last spring from head coach to athletic director, with first-year coach Rusty Bush taking the reins. 


"All the way from the seventh grade, starting with coach (Joey) Potts, they've always made it a family-like atmosphere," Cole said. "All my coaches, I know I can go to them for anything. They're always going to push me to do my best, not only in football but in life as well. I know it was a little hard with coach Bush coming over here from Northside after coach Loughridge was moved to the athletic director's position. But I think coach Bush was a good fit."  


Bush tweaked the coaching staff by adding defensive coordinator Ernest Pressley and promoting Chris Smith to offensive coordinator — the team's third different OC in Cole's three seasons. 


“Anytime you get a guy that’s returning, especially going into the situation we were in, with a new offensive coordinator and a new coach, that’s a great guy to have,” Bush said of Cole. “With Seth, you know what you’re getting. He’s smart, accountable and a leader. They’ve (players) had three offensive coordinators, three quarterback coaches, and two head coaches in three years. 


“That’s a lot to take in.”


"We all really liked coach Kendrick last year," Cole said. "Him leaving was definitely a big deal to us; we miss his story-telling. But we like the scheme we're running now."


Depth issues


The team's starting right tackle, said the Airedales only marginally tweaked the offense. 


"We've kind of kept the same identity with the power counter,” Cole said. “This year, we're running more duo (double-team blocking) ... that's something coach Gunter brought here. We added that this year to give us another arsenal."


The bigger question is depth for the much maligned Airedale offensive. 


"In the past, we might have 15 to 20 different guys capable of playing on the line," he said. "It's always a dogfight and a battle to earn a starting position. You always had to bring your best to practice every day, knowing someone was behind you. 


"This year's been a different story; we have to bring energy because we don't have the depth like we've had in the past. Even though we know nobody is there to replace us, we have to bring it every single day."


Because of depth, and a lack of overall numbers, Cole has played more defense this year than in the past.


"I really loved the Heritage game," he said. "I thought I played really well that game; I had a couple of free releases on the quarterback."


Cole played mostly defense and some fullback on offense as a sophomore. “This year is really the first year I've been playing both ways,” he said.


Next man up


"You hear a lot every week about teams shutting down and not playing (because of COVID-19)," Cole said. "One thing we pride ourselves in is being aware of the surroundings and being aware of who they're around at all times. Coach Bush always preaches to us to limit our contact with people; talk to your teachers and see if you can sit by yourself if possible, so we don't get quarantined. 


"One thing we talk about is showing up like every practice is your last, because with all the uncertainty going on in the world you never know when it's going to end."


The Airedales were hit with COVID-19 issues head on last week as the team took a depleted roster to Clarksville. 


“We definitely had to fight through some adversity,” Cole said. "It was definitely tough missing some key guys. It was one of those things where it became the next man up. It gave a lot of other people some opportunities to play, and I think a lot of those guys stepped up and played pretty well."


The Airedales threw sophomore Derek Hatcher into the fire at quarterback — the team's third different starting quarterback. 


Hatcher became the first Alma sophomore to start a game at quarterback since  2003. The Airedales have had just two sophomores start at quarterback since 1978. 


"I thought he played pretty well," Cole said. "I know the stats didn't show much, but besides the three interceptions he played well."