The first round of the playoffs wasn’t kind to the 5A South, as all four of its teams were defeated Friday night, including the White Hall Bulldogs (7-4, 4-3). The Bulldogs were the No. 4 seed out of the South, and they had to travel to take on the No. 1 seeded Alma Airedales (7-4, 5-2) of the 5A West.
The Bulldogs never found a rhythm in the second half, allowing the Airedales to take the game by a final of 28-9. Alma senior quarterback Garrison Jensen accounted for four touchdowns, three of which were passes to classmate Brayden Johnson.
White Hall senior quarterback Ollie Reddick got the Bulldogs going early on the first possession of the game. The Bulldogs moved into Alma’s territory after Reddick and senior receiver Devin Koonce hooked up for a 30-yard pass and catch. Reddick would then show off his ability to escape with a 27-yard rushing touchdown to put the Bulldogs on top. However, the extra point attempt was missed, and then special teams would have another mishap on the kickoff.
Alma started their first possession on their 40, and that’s where Jensen took over. Jensen came into game as the Airedales’ leading rusher, and he was effective running the football to start their first drive. It didn’t take long for Jensen and Johnson to let it be known that they were a one-two punch combination. On a 4th and 3 attempt, Jensen hit Johnson to move the chains, and seconds later they hooked up again for a nine-yard touchdown to cap off a 12-play drive.
With Alma leading 7-6, it was the Bulldogs’ offense that needed to respond. White Hall senior running back Rod Shelby picked up 25 yards on his first carry to spark the drive. However, a couple a negative yardage plays and a personal foul put the Bulldogs in a 3rd and 31 situation. After not picking up the first, the punt was shanked, giving the Airedales great field position.
Alma didn’t capitalize on the field position, as the Bulldog defense held strong for their first stop of the game ending the first quarter.
Early in the second, Reddick gashed the Airedale defense with a 37-yard run on 3rd and 10 to put the Bulldogs in the redzone. That’s when White Hall would shoot themselves in the foot with a couple more negative yardage plays to put them behind the chains. White Hall junior place kicker stepped up and nailed a 32-yard field goal to give the Bulldogs their last lead of the game at 9-7.
In the first half, both teams had a limited amount of possessions, and there were only 47 combined plays run by both teams.
The Airedales came out of halftime and were the beneficiaries of great field position once again as they started at their own 46. Jensen quickly found Johnson for a 47-yard connection on the first play from scrimmage of the second half. Moments later, Jensen hit Johnson from nine yards out for their second TD of the night, putting Alma up 14-9.
White Hall senior Austin Terrell recorded a 28-yard return on the ensuing kickoff to give the Bulldog offense the ball on the Alma 48. The Airedale defense was solid, and they forced White Hall into a 4th and short on their own 30. The Bulldogs gambled and failed, and the Alma offense took the field.
However, on the next play, White Hall defensive back Kam Robinson picked off Jensen to give the Bulldogs the turnover they badly needed.
Just as the Bulldogs were looking to take advantage of the turnover, Reddick threw an interception of his own with 6:05 to play in the third quarter.
For Alma, that’s when their senior playmaker Tyler Alexander began to make his mark on the game. Alexander gashed the Bulldog defense time after time until the Airedales were knocking on the door of the end zone. Jensen topped off an 11-play drive with a three-yard rushing touchdown to put Alma ahead 21-9.
Reddick tried to keep the Bulldogs alive by doing all he could scrambling out of the pocket, but the Alma defense had made adjustments. With 8:36 to play, Alma forced a turnover on downs to put the ball back in Jensen’s hands.
Jensen and Johnson were a thorn in the Bulldogs’ side all night long. On Alma’s last scoring drive, they picked up a few back-breaking first downs on 3rd and short to keep it going and milk the clock. After softening White Hall up with a few runs, Jensen connected with Johnson for their third touchdown of the night with 2:13 left to play.
The Alma defense pitched a second half shutout, and the offense did their job by putting the ball in the end zone.
Jensen completed 11/15 passes for 152 yards, three passing touchdowns and one rushing touchdown. Johnson caught nine passes for 130 yards and three touchdowns.