SPRINGDALE The pregame run-through read "This one's for you, Coach Johnson." Then the Springdale Bulldogs backed it up.
With Coach Kevin Johnson in attendance for the first time this season, the Bulldogs scored on the game's second play Friday and crushed Alma 41-0 at Jarrell Williams Bulldog Stadium.
Johnson is on medical leave after having surgery late in the summer. He returned to school part-time this week. He saw a defense that held Class 5A No. 5 Alma (0-2-1) to 125 yards - only 16 yards in the first half. As an added bonus, his son, sophomore quarterback Evan Johnson, scored the touchdown that invoked the mercy rule.
"Just to be here on the sideline and the atmosphere is something you don't realizeuntil it's taken away from you how much you value it," Johnson said. "You could tell with the kids how much this means to them. I'm just here for the support, to be positive and pat them on the back."
The Bulldogs (2-1) playedlike a team inspired. Joseph Calcagni hit a wide-open Blake Fogg for a 49-yard touchdown on the game's second play. The defense gave no ground.
Springdale scored on its final two possessions of the first half to take a 21-0 lead. Calcagni passed 4 yards to Kempys Robinson with 4:31 left, and Tyler Yager ran 2 yards with seven seconds left.
Alma managed only one possession of substance, driving 56 yards to the Springdale 26 midway through the fourth quarter before running out of downs.
"I tried to tell our kids this is their first home game and their head coach is in a battle," Alma Coach Todd Dilbeck said. "[Springdale] came out and played for him, and yourespect that so much.
"Their kids came out and played, and our kids didn't play real hard."
Calcagni was 21 of 31 for 281 yards as the Bulldogs piled up 438 yards. The Bulldogs also ran 29 more plays than theAiredales.
"We had a lot of ifs about our defense," Springdale interim coach Dennis Debusk said. "We haven't played very consistent all year long
"That's the kind of football we're used to here in Springdale."
Rahmon Taylor ran 5 yards for a touchdown with 11:23 left in the game to push Springdale's lead to 28-0. After Johnson's 1-yard run with 6:20 left, James Shorter scored on a 16-yard return of a punt blocked by Cory Williams with 3:18 left.
Kevin Johnson isn't certain when he will return full-time, but he plans to attend games as long as he feels well enough.
"We've been real concerned about him, and to be honest, it hasn't been fun not having him around," Debusk said. "No matter what happens this year, this is still his team, and we're just trying to do our best to support him and make this football program viable."