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Flanagan, Alma ‘D’ playing lights out 9/15/22

Flanagan, Alma ‘D’ playing lights out

 

By Kevin Taylor

Alma Schools

 

Fourteen quarterback sacks. Thirty-four tackles for loss. 

 

And seeing yourself on the Jumbo Tron? It’s been a heck of a start for senior Dillon Flanagan. 

 

“It’s weird to get used to seeing the plays as they happen,” he said. “At the same time, it’s really awesome that the school is willing to put in that much effort for something like that.”

 

The Alma Airedales have played the type of defense that coach Frank Vines’ teams were so famous for during his three decades as the team’s coach. 

 

The difference? Flanagan credits the team’s scheme and the expectations that seem to be growing by the day. 

 

The unbeaten Airedales (3-0) resume the 2022 season on Sept. 23 when Clarksville comes to town. 

 

“It’s not necessarily surprising, it’s just a big part of how we changed up our defense, allowing our guys to get into positions to make those plays,” Flanagan said. “At this point, I think we more or less expect it to happen because we’re more of a well-rounded defense this year.”

 

Except for two late Pryor touchdowns in last week’s 36-27 victory, the Airedales have been locked in all season, allowing just two first-half touchdowns while outscoring their opponents 47-14 in the first 24 minutes. 

 

“We’re pretty excited with how our defense has been playing, especially the first two games, and allowing just seven points a game,” Flanagan said. “This last game, we (gave) up a few more points than we wanted to, but this next week we’ll get that fixed to where it doesn’t happen for the rest of the season.”

 

Flanagan seems to be a man on a mission. Through three games, Flanagan has seven of the team’s 14 sacks. 

 

Ryan Wilkinson holds the single-season record (12) set in 1994. Four other players, Glynn Fulmer (1978), Curtis Cowan (1984), Ryan Evans (2003), and Brandon Wilson (2009) each had nine sacks in a single season. 

 

“The position they’ve got me in, it frees me up and allows me to be able to do the things I want to do and get back there,” Flanagan said. 

 

“He’s kind of an extension of the defensive line, a hybrid linebacker, but he’s free to get the quarterback,” Alma defensive line coach Kirk Benson said. 

 

Flanagan’s play has inspired others around him. Senior linebacker Reagan Birchfield leads the team with 22 tackles, but junior Paul Eubanks, who was mostly relegated to scout team duties a year ago, has 22 stops and four TFLs. 

 

“We’re looking up to him (Flanagan),” Eubanks said. “That’s the kind of year everybody wants to have as a senior. Nobody has done that for Alma in a long time, and to see him do it just drives me to do it next year during my senior year.”

 

“You look at the Pryor game … he (Flanagan) and Paul got to the quarterback on the first play at the same time,” Benson said. 

 

As a unit, the Airedales are allowing 80.3 yards per game - the fewest total since 2004 (72.1).

 

In all, seven players (Birchfield, Eubanks, Flanagan, Jaden Mahar, Cash Farris, Ashton Chanhnouvong, and Trey Bowen) have combined for 140 tackles and 28 TFLs.

 

As for the environment? Flanagan is soaking up every minute of it.

 

“Alma’s a big community and the tradition, football is what the town revolves around,” he said. “Everyone’s always here on Friday night. To see all these fans come out, it’s really awesome.”