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Airedales shake off tough loss, prepare for Vilonia 10/21/21

Airedales shake off a tough loss, prepare for Vilonia

By Kevin Taylor 

Alma Schools 


Back in the 1920s, it wasn’t unusual for football teams (some people called them football clubs) to pick up extra games from time to time. 


Imagine playing Friday afternoon in Ozark and then getting in touch with someone to play again the next day or the following Monday. 


Thankfully, the game long ago evolved into a weekly affair. And that’s a good thing for Alma coach Rusty Bush, who admits the sting from last week’s 35-34 overtime loss to Morrilton could still be felt two days later as the team began preparations for Vilonia. 


“It’s almost like a little bit of mourning,” he said. “(But) as the days go by we kind of move on from last Friday and get ready for the next one. That’s the good thing about these Alma kids; they do a good job of that.”


Alma missed two crucial extra points in last week’s loss to the Devil Dogs. And, though quarterback Joe Trusty connected with Shawn Rankins on the crucial 2-point conversion to send the game into overtime, Alma missed the PAT following Trusty’s go-ahead TD in the extra period. 


“When you’re dealing with 16 and 17-year-old kids, who were well-focused and played their guts out and to make one or two mistakes that cost you the game, it’s hard to rally back,” Bush said. “You just have to go back to work.”


The Airedales and Eagles didn’t start playing until the late 1990s (1998). And, although Alma’s dominated the small sampling of games over the years (14-4 in 18 prior meetings), the 2021 version of the Vilonia Eagles isn’t anything like the 2001 team Frank Vines and Co. drilled 31-6. 


That night, Alma built a 28-0 lead with four minutes to go in the first quarter before backing off and playing mostly backups the final two-and-a-half quarters. 


Friday, it’s all hands on deck. 


Vilonia is 7-0 for the first time since 1989. They have as many play-makers as anyone in the 5A-West. 


Senior quarterback Austin Meyers leads the attack with 2,192 yards passing and 30 touchdowns. He has passed for 3,775 yards and 43 TDs over his career. 


He would have more had it not been for a thumb injury he sustained a year ago prior to the team’s game with Alma. 


“He does a really good job of seeing things in front of him,” Bush said. “He takes what the defense gives him. He’s got a lot of great receivers and they run a lot of five wides (five-set receivers). He has some good running backs, too.


“If you play too shallow, they’ll hit you over the top, too.”


The 6-foot-4, 190-pound Meyers is a good basketball player, too. 


“He’s a really smart kid,” Bush said. “He understands what needs to be done.”


Jamison Hinsley leads Vilonia with 47 receptions for 630 yards and seven touchdowns. Connor Eary has 36 receptions for 403 yards and a team-leading nine TD receptions.


In last week’s 28-14 win over Harrison, Lane Hunter emerged as a big-game back, too, by rushing for a season-high 134 yards.  


Kannan Bartlett had 166 all-purpose yards last week for the Eagles, including 102 yards rushing.


Vilonia coach Todd Langrell is 24-15 since taking over for the Eagles. A 1989 graduate of Mayflower, Langrell was a walk-on basketball player for Don Dyer’s Central Arkansas Bears in the early ‘90s before getting into coaching. 


He coached at Pulaski Oak Grove, Greenbrier, and coached his alma mater (Mayflower) to an 11-0 start in 2017 before a post-Thanksgiving loss to Rivercrest.  


A native of Fordyce, Bush, and the Airedales have been paced by Conner Stacy’s big senior season. The receiver has 53 receptions for 915 yards and six TD receptions. He’s also run for five touchdowns from the Wildcat formation. 


BriLee White caught six passes for 72 yards and a touchdown last week. He has 23 receptions for 294 yards and four touchdowns. 


Trusty has passed for 1,353 yards and 11 touchdowns. He’s also ran for 319 yards. 


Brady Noyes and Devin Poole have complemented one another in the backfield, with Noyes rumbling for 399 yards and Poole adding 223 yards on the ground.


Landon Burkhart leads the defense with 59 tackles.