ALMA -- What a difference a year makes.
It's natural to be nervous during times of change. That was the case for Alma transfer quarterback Joe Trusty this time last year. With his first starting season under his belt while showing off his potential, the butterflies are now gone and Trusty is leading the show with full confidence.
"At this point last year, I was just learning the offense and they had to tell me what to do on most plays," Trusty said with a laugh. "There was a lot of learning. But right now, I'm so much more comfortable. Our entire offense is just further along. We are right now where we were in week 2 last year. We are ready to show what we can do."
Trusty and the Alma offensive firepower was on full display Wednesday during a team camp which included Fayetteville, Greenwood, Fort Smith Northside, Booneville and Russellville just ahead of the athletic dead period starting this weekend.
Trusty, who came from Greenwood, completed 163 of his 265 passes for 2,202 yards with 18 touchdowns last year. He also was the team's leading rusher, gaining 549 yards on the ground on 128 attempts with 6 going for scores.
The Alma offense was elevated to new heights with Trusty under center. From the previous year, the Airedales were able to increase their per game score by 13 points, have 132 more passing yards and have 106 more offensive total yards.
"He really made our offense better," Alma Coach Rusty Bush said. "He struggled a little bit early in the season. But once he got comfortable, he really took off for us. He really turned it on in the last four games. He is still learning. But we love what we see. We can be a great football team with him as our leader. He wants to be a great quarterback and with his work ethic he is well on his way."
Alma finished 3-7 last year but hopes to break through behind its improved defense and its surging offense that ranked toward the top in Class 5A. Trusty will have to do so without leading receiver Conner Stacy, who graduated after finishing with more than 1,300 receiving yards last year.
"This is my last season, so I'm ready to put it all out there," Trusty said. "I've warmed up to the offense. We are ready to go now. We want to come out here and beat Van Buren in that first week. We want that bone back. We want to take the gains we made last year and take it to another level. I feel like now I have four different guys that I really trust to throw the ball to. Our passing game has the potential to be way better."
The linebacking group for 7A runner-up Fayetteville will look a little different next season without Kaiden Turner (Indiana) and Mani Powell (Arkansas).
The Bulldogs, however, will have a familiar face back with middle linebacker Brooks Yurachek leading the position group. He finished last year with 63 tackles, four going for losses, with a sack, four pass breakups and two interceptions. Yurachek played a big role, but he is now ready to take his play to another level heading into next season.
"This is a pretty exciting group to be around right now," Yurachek said. "We have some young guys stepping up who haven't had a lot of varsity snaps. It's exciting to see them grow. I'm excited to have a full year under my belt and put to use what I learned from those guys who went to the next level."
Yurachek and fellow linebackers Brock Beasley, Landon Jones, Noah Janski and Ethan Simowitz have gotten plenty of reps over the summer. They have been working with new co-defensive coordinator Derek Davis and the transition has been seamless, Yurachek said.
"It just feels like we are working with the same defensive coordinator because he ran most of our stuff up front last year," Yurachek said. "We are just excited for next year. We learned how to get there. We want to get back to where we were in the championship game. We focus on ourselves and do our stuff and hopefully it pays off."