Airedales bounce back and head for the second round of playoffs.
The Alma Airedales had a bad taste in their mouth all week from a loss in the final game of the regular season.
That all went away on Friday night with Alma rallying past White Hall, 28-9, in the opening round of the Class 5A playoffs at Citizens Bank Field at Airedale Stadium.
“We’ve had a bad taste in my mouth all week,” Alma head coach Doug Loughridge said. “I’ve tried every kind of gum and every kind of Listerine that you can buy. There’s not one out there besides turpentine. The only way to get rid of that is to get back in the win column. It feels good. We’re healthy and ready to go to work again.”
Alma (7-4) will host Little Rock McClellan, a 16-12 winner at Batesville, in the second round.
Friday, White Hall (7-4) led 9-7, and the Airedales were held to just 84 yards in the first half on 22 offensive plays.
The Airedales answered the call in the second half.
“We went into halftime and told the kids that we were down two, we’ve been down 21, and there’s no reason to panic,” Loughridge said. “They came out and the offensive line played great, great, great. We established the line of scrimmage with our running game.”
The Airedales took the second-half kickoff, and quarterback Garrison Jensen completed a 47-yard pass to wide-open Brayden Johnson on the first play to White Hall’s 7. Two plays later, Jensen lobbed a 9-yard touchdown pass to Johnson. Aidan Walker kicked Alma ahead, 14-9.
Both teams recorded stops before Alma started putting the game away.
After Coltin Bowerman’s interception gave Alma the ball at its own 16, the Airedales methodically took 4:59 off the clock with an 84-yard drive, converting three third downs. Jensen capped the 11-play drive with a draw up the middle, aided by a block by Bryson Treadaway, from five yards out. Walker’s point after put Alma up, 21-9, with 1:06 left in the third quarter.
White Hall moved to Alma’s 26 on its next series, but Alma’s defense stiffened again and held on downs.
Alma went on another long and this time a back-breaking drive, taking 5:43 off the clock with a 13-play drive. Alma for the second drive in a row was three-for-three on third-down conversions with Jensen rolling left, faking to run, and then throwing to Johnson, who was wide-open for a 21-yard touchdown toss. Walker’s placement put Alma up, 28-9, with 2:53 left.
In all, during the final two drives, Alma had 24 plays for 170 yards.
“The best defense is a good offense, and that’s keeping those guys off the field,” Loughridge said. “I thought our guys just churned out yardage and stayed in bounds and kept on running the ball. The running backs fell forward and kept us out of negative yardage plays.”
Alma’s defense was also stellar in the final half, with the second-half shutout, allowing just 98 yards over the final 24 minutes.
Tyler Alexander ran for 97 yards on 14 carries to power Alma’s running game.
Jensen ran for 42 yards and completed 11-of-15 passes for 152 yards with three touchdowns to Johnson, who finished with nine receptions for 130 yards.
White Hall quarterback was brilliant with 146 yards on the ground, including 118 yards in the first half, and 136 yards passing.
“The defense played out of their minds,” Loughridge said. “That’s a good offense, and he’s an electric player. It was a total group effort. I like the way we ran to the ball and tackled.”