The Alma Airedales downed Huntsville 35-0 on Friday, ending the Eagles’ 2019 football season.
Alma finished the regular season 5-5 overall and 5-2 in the 5A West. As the number 5 seed from the 5A West, Alma will play at Forrest City Friday in the Class 5A state playoffs.
Huntsville ended the season 1-9 overall and 0-7 in conference. Due to enrollment numbers, the Eagles are scheduled to drop to Class 4A next season.
“I’m just proud of these seniors,” said Huntsville coach Matt Williams after the game.
“I’ve said all year and all along that I really wanted to have some kind of success because they deserved it. I know that it’s tough with the record and the wins and losses. People don’t really realize it, but these guys have done so much for the program and done so much for us as coaches and for the younger guys.”
Williams said the seniors have led by example.
“They’ve been a great example. They’ve done everything all year long with class and just worked hard and never gave up,” he said.
“They have nothing to hang their head about. One of these days they’re going to look back on their senior season with a lot of pride on what they accomplished. With seniors like that, they’re the ones that, they knew immediately when I got this job that we needed to change the culture of this and it wasn’t me, it was them that did a lot of that.”
Teaching the underclassmen this year was equally as important.
“That’s going to mean a lot going on down the road because they’ve really taught these younger guys and what we’re trying to get done and still show here in a year or two hopefully.”
Alma led 7-0 after one quarter and 21-0 at the half. The Airedales rushed for 253 yards, led by Ben Henley who gained 94 yards on 12 carries. Grayson Bailey added 50 yards and two touchdowns on just four carries.
Quarterback Landon Blair completed 7-of-10 passes for 181 yards and a score. Bailey caught three passes for 155 yards and a touchdown.
The Eagles in the first half were able to move the football, often on the ground with junior fullback Gus Comer who ran for 65 yards on seven carries. He had carries of 24, 13 and 15 yards on fullback dives and traps in the first half.
Quarterback Brooks Wiggins completed 5-of-6 passes in the first half for 28 yards, but threw an interception in the end zone.
Alma got on the board with 2:11 left in the opening quarter when Bailey ran in from 26 yards out. Olaf Olsson kicked the first of his five extra-points and the Airedales led 7-0.
Blair with 11:52 left in the second found Bailey wide open over the middle for a 45-yard touchdown pass. Olsson made it 14-0.
With 2:27 left in the first half Bailey scored from 8 yards out. The kick gave Alma a 21-0 lead at intermission.
Alma took the second-half kickoff and drove the field until Blair scored from a yard out. The kick made it 28-0.
With 7:27 left in the third, Josh Davis intercepted a Wiggins’ pass and returned it 51 yards for the score. The kick made the final score 35-0.
Alma in the first half ran 25 plays for 290 yards while Huntsville had 26 plays for 102 yards. Kolton Reynolds made two catches and had kickoff returns of 70 yards.
The Eagles played without running back/linebacker Slayter Watkins, who fractured a fibula against Harrison. Also missing playing time Friday were Tristyn Woodruff, Dayton Sieber and Logan Whittmore.
Williams said that he, along with the players, learned a lot during this season.
“There’s lots of things I’ve learned this year that I’ve liked, a lot of things we’ve done, then there’s a lot of things I want to do a little bit different next year, just from a logistic standpoint, where certain coaches fit and little things here and there. It’s a process,” he said.
“I know in all my years of being a coach I’ve been on the defensive side of the ball and I really tried this year to sit back and get involved with the offense,” Williams said.
“I love what we do offensively and I just want to continue to build off of that,” he said.
“One of the things I looked into in the off-season was hiring some really good coaches to add to the ones we had. I think our coaching staff is really, really good and that’s probably the best thing that I did as a coach this year, was hire guys that I think were a good fit.”
Williams said changing the culture of Huntsville football and having a more positive experience were keys this year.
“And get these guys to love playing football again and enjoy being around and just changing up the culture and making it a positive culture again. I think we’ve done that. I couldn’t have done that without the seniors. It’s going to get better and better. It’s going to show but it’s going to take a while.”
Williams said part of the off-season will be to assess each player.
“We’ll sit down with each player. Obviously we want to win more football games and I really think that’s going to come eventually, but it’s just a process,” he said.
Offensive coordinator Zack Wiggins told the seniors that they were successful this year, despite only winning one game.
“You’re going to go on. You’re going to make a great husband. You’re going to go on and make a great father. You’re going to be able to raise your son and your daughter using the lessons that you acquired from this football game,” Wiggins said.
“That’s what’s going to last. Thank you for everything you’ve given this year and for not letting go of showing these younger guys how to hang in there in good times and in bad.”
Defensive coordinator Dan Childress added, “I wouldn’t be anywhere else without a single player. You held your heads high, you fought the good fight.”