- Alma School District
Alma sixth-graders special group
Alma sixth-graders special group
By Kevin Taylor, Alma Schools
It's hard to project how good the 2026 Alma Airedales' football team will be. There is no roster; no starting quarterback.
Heck, there is no schedule.
But Alma's 2027 seniors have had a successful sixth-grade football tour while competing in the River Valley League composed of other players from surrounding towns.
No, Bentonville, North Little Rock, and Harrison aren't on the schedule, replaced with trips to Paris, Waldron, Charleston, Booneville, Ozark, and Mena. But it's a start.
"Anytime a kid can get out and play something at an early age and be able to develop is important," Alma head coach Rusty Bush said. "A lot of people say running pass routes and learning your scheme is big, which is all-important, but the motor skills development is the most important of all that stuff.
"Anytime kids can get out and learn the game, and learn those traits of being a football player, it's always a great experience."
Former Alma basketball and swimming standout Bert Adams has coached a number of his players, including his son Lawson, in multiple sports since they were 7.
In fact, this group finished second at the AA state baseball tournament as 7-year-olds, dropping a heartbreaking decision to Cabot. Over the next three seasons, the Alma baseballers compiled a 58-26 baseball record while beating teams from all over Arkansas.
Last summer, Alma placed third at the AA state tournament.
Two years ago, the group finished 15-1 as 10-year-olds in the competitive Arkansas Athletes Outreach (AAO) basketball league in Fayetteville — beating Fayetteville, Springdale, Bentonville West, Rogers, Bentonville, Har-Ber, and Farmington teams along the way. The group slumped to 12-3 in 2019-20.
But this fall was the first time the group has played outside of Alma when it comes to football.
"I think it's really important to play against other teams," Adams said. "I think sometimes when we play against our own kids all the time, you're almost playing against one another, instead of making that bond that we're playing together.
"I think it's been really good."
The 11-year-old Alma sixth grade football team includes Bush's son, Andrew, as well as Alma Athletic Director Doug Loughridge's son Hudson.
Other players include Drake Ciampoli, Caed Cowett, Wyatt Fisher, Logan Flannagan, Dylan Jackson, Lexton Johnson, Kenny Medlock, Colton Nutt, Tristan Nutt, Noah Patterson, Julian Spears, Luke Stogsdill, Landon Taylor, Denver Gilstrap, and Lucas Yates.
"To promote our sport, especially in today's world, is important," Bush said. "Our sport is as safe as it's ever been. We want to promote what we do and what football's all about. We’ve got to promote the varsity and sub-varsity levels and make sure it gets down to the little league programs, and our philosophies and what we do get passed on to those kids.
"This is a small town and we need our kids to grow up enjoying football and wanting to be part of the program and be a part of the community and wanting to be an Airedale."
"I think it's been a really good experience," Adams said. "I think 7-on-7, playing up against teams in Northwest Arkansas has been really awesome. I think it's really helping out our kids and getting them better for the future."
The Alma group opens postseason play Saturday at Ozark.
"Football is a tough sport," Bush said. "It's played in the heat; it's played in the elements. When those kids get out there and kind of have a taste of it, it's extremely important — the earlier the better.”