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Airedales Battle Through Adversity 9/27/21

Airedales battle through adversity

By Kevin Taylor

Alma Schools 


For Levi Burkhart, there’s nothing more relaxing than spinning a fishing lure or sitting in a tree stand. 


It’s the same way for his twin brother, Landon. 


“Hunting and fishing have always been a big thing in my family,” Levi Burkhart said. “It’s something I’ve always enjoyed. Basically, it started at a real young age; my grandpa (Roy Burkhart) was a big influence. He loved taking me or Landon out hunting or fishing … any day of the week. If I wasn’t busy, I was hunting or fishing — that’s the way it’s always been.”


Over the past two weeks, however, fishing and hunting, and football, have taken a backseat to the real-life events that have produced more tears than tackles. 


It’s been a tough couple of weeks for the Alma Airedales’ football family. 


A little over a week ago, one day before the team’s nonconference finale with Rogers Heritage, senior Conner Stacy’s dad, Curtis, underwent a serious medical procedure. 


Then last week, senior Levi Burkhart’s world was turned upside down by the death of a family member. 


“Lately, it’s been a pretty rough time,” Burkhart said. “The thing is, it’s just a big shock. It’s something that we’re definitely trying to push through. Everybody just doesn’t understand everything that’s happened."


“It’s basically a question that no one will ever solve.”


Friday, Burkhart had six tackles (Landon had nine) as Alma turned away Pea Ridge, 55-38, in Alma’s 5A-West opener Friday. 


The team’s second straight win might not have happened without some serious soul searching in the team’s come-from-behind 28-27 win over Rogers Heritage a week earlier.


Stacy, Landon Burkhart, and Reagan Birchfield challenged teammates to step up. 


“The first half, I guess we weren’t motivated enough to get any stops,” Burkhart said. “(But) we had a good little speech at halftime that kind of gave us a boost, not just from the coaches but from the players, too. In the second half, I think we definitely stepped up. Holding them (Heritage) to 52 yards definitely made a difference.”


Against Pea Ridge, the Burkharts were back on the field, their bloodshot eyes focused on beating a Blackhawks team that, like Heritage, has spun its wheels of late. 


For Levi Burkhart, Friday night Airedale football games have been in his blood since elementary school. 


“I’ve been at Alma since kindergarten; it’s always been my dream to be an Airedale,” he said. “Since this is my senior year, it seems like it’s really flying by. But it’s a lot of fun — I’m going to enjoy it while I’m out there.”


Stacy and BriLee White combined for 10 receptions for 273 yards and three touchdowns in Alma’s rout of Pea Ridge. White had a career night, hauling in four catches for 119 yards, including a clutch 31-yard touchdown reception that put the Airedales ahead 41-30 midway through the third quarter. 


He added an 81-yard touchdown catch on the second play of the fourth quarter. 


Quarterback Joe Trusty threw for 327 yards (the second-most in school history) as Alma score 50-plus points for just the eighth time in school history. 


“I looked up and I saw space — as soon as he hit it my hands went up,” Stacy said of White’s first TD. “Then, on top of that, this man runs right down the middle and catches the seam (pass) and takes that one to the house, too. He had a wonderful night.”


“We really needed to go into conference and show people the team that we are,” White added. “It’s been a little hard on everyone, but I think we showed that tonight.”


Stacy, who caught six passes for 154 yards in the team’s win, including an 87-yard touchdown reception, added a pair of short TD runs in the team’s victory. 


“We’re going through all these hardships and struggles,” Stacy said. “For us just to be able to come together and get that win, it really boosted the energy in the locker room and the vibe. 


“These two wins really mean a lot.”