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Alma not looking past Panthers 9/20/22

Alma not looking past Panthers

By Kevin Taylor

Alma Schools 


Alma football coach Rusty Bush spent last week critiquing his football team. 


Three wins in as many games is a good way to open the season. But neither of them wins without a few flaws.


This week, the Airedales turned their attention to the Clarksville Panthers. 


“Last week we spent more time on ourselves than Clarksville; we wanted to clean up a few things that we saw in the first three weeks, that we felt like we could get better at,” Bush said. “As coaches, we started preparing for Clarksville, but as we started the week, we go full focus on them.”


The Panthers (0-3) finished 1-8 a year ago but ended the season by beating Morrilton (35-28) for the second year in a row. 


The 2022 version of the Panthers is similar to coach Khris Buckner’s other run-oriented football teams. It’s assignment football from start to finish. “They’re always good for an upset a year,” Bush said, “and you want to make sure it’s not you.”


Alma’s much-maligned 2021 defensive unit allowed just 166 total yards against the Panthers last season, a season-low. 


This season, the Panthers are averaging 20.6 points per game while allowing 47 points per outing. The 2021 Clarksville defense allowed just 34 points per game.  


Defensively, the Airedales are allowing 243 yards per game, though Pryor, Okla., scored two late touchdowns in a game that was all but over two weeks ago. 


“Their offense is something you have to worry about,” Bush said. “They’re going to cut possessions down in a game and hold onto the football. Last year, we got the ball back with 19 seconds left in the third quarter for the first time. The possessions you get, if you make a mistake here or there, they’re (Clarksville) going to make the game close.”


Three years ago, having battled through COVID and injuries, the Airedales went to Clarksville and lost 34-14, giving the Panthers their first win over the Airedales since 1978 — a span of 10 games covering more than six decades. 


Alma (3-0 for the first time since 2014) leads the all-time series 16-8, though the Panthers won six of seven games between 1958-65. 


“Winning breeds confidence, and our kids feel like right now they’re playing pretty good,” Bush said. “Right now, it’s time to chase a conference championship. We’re 0-0, and we’ll see how it comes out.”


Alma quarterback leads the Airedales with 355 passing yards and three touchdowns. He’s also averaging 5.5 yards per carry. 


The Airedales’ Carlos Gonzalez has rushed for 319 yards and four touchdowns while giving the Airedales their first legitimate running game since Malachi White nearly 10 years ago.