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New format, same energy: Former Airedale Powell overseeing restructured little league program 9/14/22

New format, same energy

Former Airedale Powell overseeing restructured little league program


By Kevin Taylor

Alma Schools 


Chad Powell is old-school. That’s especially true when it comes to playing football. 


And being a lifelong Alma Airedale? For Chad Powell, that’s just icing on the cake. 


“It’s a community. You know most people … you see them at games,” Powell said. “That’s what I grew up with. (Today), it’s still home; I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.”


Powell is heading up Alma’s revamped little league football program as commissioner of the program. There will be long Saturdays and late nights on Mondays and Tuesdays. And, in as much as he’d love to have seen himself on the giant jumbotron that hovers above the north end zone, one thing that still holds true today is the feeling kids get when you run through the giant inflatable ‘A’ when taking the field. 




“When you were young and got to go watch the Airedales walk down the ramp in the north end zone before they ran through the sign the cheerleaders were holding — it was a major thing to stand there and get an occasional high-five because those dudes were giants,” Powell said. “It meant everything. When you were in senior high, you got to walk through the crowd and see those kids … it had become full circle. 


“Only one Airedale, baby!”


Powell played for the Airedales in the 1980s before the stadium had its 1995 make-over. 


“Tom McMurray was my mentor, but I looked up to Dave Hale, Brooks Witherspoon, Stan Flenor, coach (Jim) Funderburg, coach (Mike) McSpadden, and coach (Frankie) Vines. I know there are a thousand former players who might have a favorite, but deep down it was that whole crew that influenced us.”


In many ways, Alma’s restructured little league program has come full circle, with travel games being played at Citizens Bank Field at Airedale Stadium and city league games taking place on the hollowed ground of the Alma Intermediate School field. 


Back in the 1970s and ’80s, when legendary Alma little league coach Delmar Moses would sneak over to Alma Middle School to spy on up-and-coming Alma little league players, the system was fairly basic. Players were drafted, teams were formed, and you played football for two months. 


Today’s game is slightly different. There will still be little league teams, but there are also some travel teams, Powell said. The fifth and sixth-grade travel team will play other communities, such as Ozark, Greenwood, Booneville, and Van Buren, just to name a few.”


“I’ll probably make people mad but my whole goal or MO is to feed the Alma system,” Powell said. 


“The biggest part is getting our younger kids to understand the terminology so that when they get to the seventh grade they know what to expect,” Alma offensive coordinator Chris Smith said. “I told a parent the other day, who has a son on the seventh-grade team and one on the third-grade team. The five plays we run are the same. If we can do that for the next four years, when he gets to seventh grade, it’s not new to him.”


Smith and Eric Marsh are coaching Alma’s third-grade travel team, Alma veteran assistants Zach Jones and Josh Driscoll are coaching the fourth-grade team, and defensive line coach Kirk Benson is helping to coach Alma’s fifth and six-grade teams. 


“We want to be good at fundamentals but mostly we want them to learn our language,” Alma coach Rusty Bush said. “A lot of our coaches are out there in travel teams right now. They’re learning everything from the ground up.”


Powell loves what’s happening in the younger grades.


“Obviously, you want to emphasize the importance of running the same offense,” Powell said. “The biggest thing is still installing the basics of football. I’m sorry, (but) there is no way a kid should walk into seventh-grade athletics and not know how to get into a three-point stance. I think back to how I was a coach in little league and what we could do. 


“J.D. Van Matre, Merle Hill, Harold Hill, Hubert Heister, and my dad, Paul Powell — we ran almost a complex yet simple offense and ran a 4-4 style of defense in the fifth and sixth grade. That needs to come back in both the city and the travel leagues.”


Powell set forth to recruit some knowledgeable coaches. 


“Ones that love football — love the whole game,” he said. “The kind that loves to teach young kids the basics. If it’s about the W’s, you’re doing it wrong. All the X’s and O’s in the world don’t mean anything if you don’t have the Jimmies and Joes to play.”