Alma head coach Doug Loughridge always hands out a game-day itinerary to his players on Friday mornings. There was an added line at the end to accept the 5A-West championship trophy at 9:45 p.m.
He was about 15 minutes off.
“I put on there that at 9:45 we’d get the championship trophy,” Loughridge said. “I asked what time it was and it was 9:30 not 9:45. It’s awesome for these kids. This is a tradition-rich football town.”
Alma took advantage of three turnovers in the first half by Shiloh Christian, cashed them all in for touchdowns and routed the Saints, 37-14, to cap an undefeated conference season.
Alma (8-2, 7-0 5A-West) will host Beebe in the first round of the 5A playoffs.
“That’s a luxury,” Loughridge said. “When you can make them load up the bus and travel five hours and come see you, that’s a luxury here in front of our crowd.”
Alma failed to convert a fourth-down on its second possession and Shiloh Christian drove into the Airedales’ territory before Alex Beneux intercepted a pass and returned it to midfield.
Malachi White kick-started the Airedales with a 14-yard run on first down. Three plays later, Evan Burris hit Jake Marrs across the middle for a 38-yard touchdown play. Seth Linker’s extra point had Alma up, 7-0, with 59 seconds left in the first quarter.
Shiloh Christian (6-3-1, 5-2) tried a fake punt on its next possession and fumbled. After Asa Scruggs’ recovered, Burris hit Ricky Robbins for a 38-yard touchdown pass on the first play. Linker’s extra point bumped the Airedales’ lead to 14-0 with 11:04 left in the first half.
Three plays later, Keith Schultz intercepted a pass and returned it to the Saints’ 36. White ran for 12 yards, was stopped for no gain and then reeled off a 20-yard touchdown run with 8:21 left in the half for a 21-0 lead.
Alma’s three scoring drives covered just 52 yards, 38 and 36 yards following the turnovers.
“They were big, obviously,” Shiloh Christian head coach Josh Floyd said of the turnovers. “You have to protect the football. We hurt ourselves with penalties. We had so many first-and-20s and second-and-20s, it’s hard to come back from that especially in these conditions.”
Alma’s defense smothered Shiloh Christian in the first half by allowing just 50 yards on 33 plays with four first downs.
“We held them in check,” Loughridge said. “We think our front seven is pretty good. We heard all week how Shiloh averaged 300 yards per game rushing. Nobody said anything about the Airedales only giving up 70 per game. We went in there and took care of business. We put it in our defense’s hands several times.”
The Airedales added to their lead when linebacker Alex Burris tackled Chris Cox in the end zone for a safety and a 23-0 lead with 53 seconds left in the third quarter.
White added a highlight-reel touchdown run four plays into the fourth quarter, darting and spinning for 14 yards with 10:49 left in the game. After Cox scored on a 4-yard run and 69-yard to draw the Saints within 30-14, White added a 1-yard run touchdown run with 1:41 left for the clincher.
“Offensively, we started wearing on them like we have all year,” Loughridge said. “The offensive line took over and Malachi took over.”
White finished with 27 carries for 142 yards and three touchdowns. Burris added 134 yards on 8-of-15 passing.
Cox led Shiloh Christian with 22 carries for 147 yards and both of the Saints’ touchdowns.