photo by GEORGE “CLAY” MITCHELL
The ball is knocked loosed between Evan Burris (4) and Malachi White (23) on Alma’s first play of the Class 5A playoff game against Beebe at Airedale Stadium Friday night. Beebe recovered the fumble, but had to settle for a field goal. Alma recovered from some first-half miscues to win 49-23. The Airedales will host Little Rock Mills for the second round of the playoffs next week.
photo by GEORGE “CLAY” MITCHELL
Defensive stalwart Alex Burris (34) recovers the fumble after an Alma punt as Jake Folkerts (5) and Alex Beneux (19) celebrate at Airedale Stadium Friday night during the first round of the Class 5A playoffs against Beebe. Alma was able to score after the recovery to take the lead and eventually won 49-23. Alma hosts Little Rock Mills for the second round of the playoffs next week.
ALMA – The Airedales had to get a little tricky on Friday.
Alma converted successive trick plays to score a game-turning touchdown before putting away Beebe, 49-23, in the first round of the 5A playoffs.
Alma (9-2) will host Little Rock Mills — which beat White Hall, 32-13 — in the second round.
Friday, Alma led 14-10 and faced a fourth-down at its own 48 and the possibility of giving the ball back to the clock-chomping Badgers. Punter, and quarterback, Evan Burris took the snap in punt formation and threw a high pass, imitating a punt. Tyler Mlaker caught it for a gain of 37 yards and a first down off what it was literally a fake punt against an unsuspecting defense.
“It is a fake punt and it worked,” Alma head coach Doug Loughridge said.”We’ve worked on it all year, and it’s the first time we ran it. He’s the first quarterback that I’ve had complete that pass. We set up in our heavy formation and throw it straight up in the air. The players run down and yell for everybody to get out of the way. They executed right the way we wanted to. Then we come right after that and run the trick play to Thomas Hall.”
On the next play, Burris hit wide open tight end Thomas Hall, lined up tackle eligible, across the middle for a 15-yard touchdown pass. Seth Linker added the extra point with 6:13 left to push Alma up, 21-10.
“We lined up in our heavy set, broke out of it into empty and he’s the tackle eligible,” Loughridge said. “He went straight down the pipe. It’s two trick plays back-to-back. We never felt comfortable. That’s why we do those things. There’s no need to waste them. We work them, we use them.”
Beebe had a little different opinion of the fake punt that turned the tide in the game.
“On the fake punt, when they were up five on fourth down, in our mind should have been offsides call,” Beebe head coach John Shannon. “Sometimes you don’t get the call the way you think they should go. We had opportunities. We just didn’t take advantage.”
Beebe (5-6) answered with a 17-play, 75-yard drive, capped by a 1-yard plunge by fullback Tripp Smith with 11 seconds left in the half.
The Badgers also took possession of the second-half kickoff, but Alma linebacker Alex Burris stuffed a fourth-down reverse for a loss of two yards.
The Airedales scored on their third consecutive possession on Burris’ 43-yard touchdown pass across the middle to Hall, who made an acrobatic one-handed stab.
Again, Beebe answered on Dakota Mahoney’s 40-yard touchdown scamper. Mahoney appeared stopped on the play, but squirted loose from the pile and ran for the score. Tres Rowland blocked the extra point, which left Alma’s lead at 28-23 with 3:19 left in the third quarter.
Beebe recovered the onside kick, but Alex Beneux and Keith Schultz stopped Beebe quarterback Micah Dubois one yard shy on fourth down.
Alma’s offense added a fourth consecutive touchdown with some help from Beebe. With Linker lined up for a 30-yard field goal, Beebe jumped offside for a first down. On the next play, Malachi White scored on an 8-yard run.
Alex Burris stuffed Beebe on another fourth-down try to stall the Badgers again and the Airedales added a clinching touchdown with 1:08 left on White’s 1-yard run.
Rowland added the finishing touches with a 62-yard interception return as time expired. No extra point was attempted.
Smith led Beebe’s rushing attack with 147 yards on 35 carries. The Badgers had 39 offensive snaps in the first half compared to just 16 for Alma.
“You cannot duplicate that (Dead-T) offense in three days (of practice),” Loughridge said. “You can’t get ready for it no matter how good of a scout team you have. That’s what they do. That’s what their kids buy into from the seventh through the 12th grade. They did exactly what they wanted to do. They kept the ball the first half and kept our offense limited.”
Evan Burris finished 9-of-12 passing for 203 yards and three touchdowns. Hall caught two touchdown passes, including a 41-yarder down the middle for a 14-10 lead with 10:19 left in the first half, and finished with three catches for 99 yards. Junior Edwards also snared a 13-yard touchdown pass for Alma’s first score following a 35-yard field goal by Beebe’s Tyler Jones.
“We liked the matchups with their defensive backs,” Loughridge said. “We knew if we could protect, execute and our receivers run great routes then we could have a lot of success throwing, and we did. They were very physical up front and took away a lot of our run game.”
Burris threw for 132 yards in the first half, but the Airedales had negative rushing yards at the break.
“That’s not Alma football,” Loughridge said. “We got better in the second half.”