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Bring on the football heat 5/12/22

Bring on the football heat 

By Kevin Taylor

Alma Schools 


What a difference a week makes. 


Last week, as Alma baseball coach Brian Fry and softball coach Charla Parrish were closing out their respective spring seasons, fans were still clamoring for blankets and jackets. 


This week, the first full week of spring football practice feels more like mid-summer. 


“Yeah, but at least there’s a little bit of a breeze,” Alma football coach Rusty Bush said. “You don’t get that in the summer — it’s just pure heat.”


Spring practice has allowed new assistant coaches Kirk Benson and Payton Morris to get their feet wet, too. 


The Airedales have several key holdovers from last season’s 3-4 finish in the 5A-West, most notably quarterback Joe Trusty. 


But there is also plenty of work to be done. The team’s top receivers, Conner Stacy and BriLee White have graduated. Much of the team’s offensive line is gone, too. 


Bush has a busy summer planned for the Airedales who open the season on Aug. 23 against Van Buren. 


The Airedales have some younger players expected to play early, including lineman Elijah Waldrop. Waldrop set the school squat record last week with a lift of 585 pounds. 


In addition, Alma also returns some key pieces, such as Reagan Birchfield and Brady Noyes. 


“Brady carried the majority of our running game,” Bush said. “Plus, you’ve got four or five young kids who are going to help us on Friday night. We’ve got to make sure they’re ready. One thing about being at Alma, that first game against Van Buren is a big eye-opener for a 15 or 16-year-old kid facing 18-year-olds.”


Bush and Co. will host the 7-on-7 Showcase on June 10. Last season, the 24-team event was the biggest in the state. 


ODE TO NEW RECEIVERS COACH: Graduating seniors Conner Stacy and BriLee White combined for 124 receptions and 15 touchdowns during the 2021 season. Who’s next?


Senior-to-be receivers Derek Hatcher and Matthew Schlegel are ready for their shot. The pair have already bonded with the new receivers coach, Payton Morris. 


Hatcher and Schlegel combined for 26 receptions and 217 receiving yards in 2021. 


“He knows what he’s talking about; he’s (already) breaking it down from a fundamental standpoint,” Hatcher said. “He’s working with each of us to get better every day.”


“It’s going really well,” Schlegel said. “He’s teaching us the fundamentals of football. I think he has a great approach coming in.”


Morris is eager to create some depth at receiver, too. 


“It’s huge,” Hatcher said. “You get fatigued very easily in the heat, so it’s next man up.”


AMERICAN LEGION: Alma baseball coach Brian Fry is getting back into the American Legion baseball swing of things. The Airedales plan to field a 17-and-under legion team starting with a May 31 matchup against Northside. 


“Player development is the No. 1 reason it’s important for us to get back into American Legion baseball,” Fry said. “We need to play the top competition we can find, pitch as many innings as possible, and get more AB’s for our underclassmen so they don’t have any surprises when the 2023 season rolls around.”


Fry hopes to play 24 to 26 games, with a zone and state tournament set for July 11-15. 


“We will take players from the incoming eighth graders to incoming seniors,” he said. 


ELI WAS HERE: Tough as nails linebacker Eli Drinkwitz worked his way up the coaching ladder pretty quickly in the course of the last 20 years. 


This past weekend, he returned to Alma High School as the keynote speaker for Alma’s Chamber of Commerce Banquet. He hasn’t forgotten where he came from. 


“I remember some of the formidable years in my life were here,” Drinkwitz said. “There are a lot of lessons I’m still trying to teach to my football team. The communities that I speak in, those are things that were taught here, whether it was character, integrity, competitive spirit — those things were learned here in the Alma school district.”


LUCAS TO THE ATL: Former Alma baseball standout Lucas Hayes has had a busy week. In addition to graduating Saturday, Hayes went to Atlanta to compete in the Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair. 


“Lucas makes me incredibly proud by the way he represents his family, team, school, and community,” Alma baseball coach Brian Fry said. “He has his hand in more activities than any student-athlete I have ever been around, and it’s a privilege for me just to be part of his journey. 

There are not enough words I can use to describe the character and work ethic of Lucas Hayes. 


“He, without a doubt, has my highest recommendation.”


GOLF TOURNAMENT: Alma will host the 2022 Citizens Bank Airedale Golf Classic on June 5. Proceeds will benefit the Mikell McSpadden and Frank Vines Scholarship fund.