The Arkansas Leader

Owls riding blowout win to first-ever home game

Abundant Life will host Cornerstone at 4 p.m. Saturday at Sylvan Hills

While it is the second season of Abundant Life Christian Academy football, it’s the first season for ALCA home games, and the first-ever football home game in school history will take place at 4 p.m. Saturday at Sylvan Hills High School’s Blackwood Field against Cornerstone Academy.
The Owls are coming off an impressive win over Arkansas Christian Academy in Bryant. Abundant Life lost twice to ACA last season, 60-0 and 52-6, but completely reversed that on Friday night with a dominant 61-8 victory.
“To be honest with you, it was a game we had circled on the calendar since last season,” said ALCA coach Nathan Adams. “They beat us pretty bad last year. Our kids wanted to make a statement. They played hard and did that.”
It didn’t take long for the Owls to make their first statement. ACA tried an on-side kick and failed to cover it.
The very first snap of the game, Owl running back Noah Ergle took a handoff around the left tackle for 48 yards and the score. The two-point conversion gave Abundant Life more points in 22 seconds than it scored in two entire games against the Knights in its inaugural season.
The Owl defense forced a quick three-and-out by ACA, and the offense took over at its own 31. Things weren’t quite as easy as the first drive. Two inside runs netted 5 yards before an outside run picked up enough for the first, first-down of the game.
After a quarterback keep by Miller Adams picked up 5 more yards, Adams found Hunter Hagewood on a crossing pattern. Hagewood made the catch near midfield, broke one tackle and outran the Knight defense until being tackled at the 1-yard line.
Two plays later, Adams kept and rode his offensive line into the end zone. The two-point conversion pass to Bennett McCoy made the score 16-0 late in the first quarter.
The Knights hit one big pass play from 30 to 30 on the ensuing drive, but turned it over on downs after coming up a yard short of a first down from there.
The Owls took over at the Knight 21. After a 5-yard gain on first down, Adams hit quick swing pass left, and Wiley took it 74 yards for the score and a three touchdown ALCA lead in the first quarter.
The Knights returned the kickoff to the 33-yard line, but could only muster 4 yards of offense in three plays. Trailing 24-0, they elected to go for the first down instead of punting, and failed to get the necessary yardage. Abundant Life took possession at the ACA 37, and didn’t take long to go up by four scores.
Wiley took a handoff 16 yards on first down. A holding penalty on the next play moved the Owls back, but a personal foul by ACA on the last play of the first quarter set up first and goal. Adams kept on a bootleg left and waltzed into the end zone for a 30-0 ACA lead just seconds into the second period.
The Knights flubbed the ensuing kickoff and had to start from inside their own 15-yard line. Three plays got the ball to the 24 and the home team elected not to punt once again. And once again it wasn’t close. Wiley made the tackle after just a 1-yard gain, and the Owl offense took over at the Knight 19.
Two plays gained 4 yards before Wiley took a sweep handoff just far enough for the first down. The Knights then jumped off-sides before Adams kept over the right guard for a 36-0 Abundant Life lead.
The home team got one first down on the ensuing drive thanks to a completion ruling despite replay showing the receiver a full yard out of bounds when he made the catch. No matter. Two plays later, Wiley intercepted an ACA pass at midfield and returned it to the Knight 32-yard line.
Three runs by McCoy got the ball inside the 20 before Adams kept on a bootleg right that fooled the entire defense and allowed the Owl quarterback to walk into the end zone t0 make the score 42-0. The two-point conversion was good, making it 44-0 going into halftime.
With the mercy-rule clock running the entire second half, Abundant Life outscored the Knights 17-6 to set the final margin.
Abundant Life racked up 393 total yards of offense while holding ACA to just 150. The Owls rushed for 264 yards while passing for 129.
Abundant life made big strides in one week, especially defensively. The offense moved the ball in last week’s 62-35 loss to Sacred Heart of Jackson, Tenn., but committed a lot of turnovers. The defense was a different team.
“I felt good defensively,” Nathan Adams said. “It was a lot like last season’s game one to game two. We had some new guys that didn’t know what to expect in that first game. We came back, focused a lot on defense and a lot on conditioning. We worked on seeing your keys, knowing your responsibilities and just tackling better. They took that to the field on Friday.
“Offensively, we had no turnovers in the second game and that’s key.”
Cornerstone is coming from Joplin on Saturday. The Owls (1-1, 1-0) played at Cornerstone last season and picked up a hard-fought 30-28 win. It was the closest Cornerstone came to a win last season when it went 0-10. The Spartans have also shown improvement this year, winning their season opener 46-0 and losing 40-38 to Cornerstone Family Academy of Topeka in a nonconference game.
“It think they’ll be solid,” Adams said. “Last year was a really close game and I think they’ve gotten better. It should be a good game.”
The head Owl said excitement about the school’s first-ever home football game is palpable on campus, but he worried about distractions.
“Nothing special planned. To be honest, right now I think I’d rather play every game on the road rather than deal with all the distractions. We’re just figuring out the pieces of the puzzle on what all is involved in hosting a home game. As coaches we’re just trying to keep the players focused on football. But it’s going to be exciting. We’ve traveled pretty well our two road games so I think we’ll have a good crowd.

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