On Saturday October 5th, Alma’s football team started off their conference season with a bang by defeating their rival, Albion, in a close 32-28 win.
Alma, who had been trailing Albion for most of the game, made a huge comeback in the final quarter of the game.
“Collin Smith’s interception in the 4th was a momentum spark. We had quick drives resulting in TD’s and the defense played great in the fourth quarter, forcing three and out possessions for the Brits,” said Head Coach Jason Couch.
This comeback win helped Alma not only charge past Albion, but placed them as 1-0 to start off the MIAA conference.
“We were very excited to be back on the field after our bye week. On top of that, to play a conference rival and start MIAA play made it more exciting. We thought it would be a hard-fought game and it proved to be that,” said Couch.
However, the intense game was not just fueled by the conference rivalry between the two teams. The “battle” between the two began before the game even started.
For as long as the two teams have existed, they have always been major rivals. This rivalry impacts everything from the way they prepare, practice and even dress.
“They consider us as the ‘little brother’ which of course plays a part in how we prep. No purple at practice, no purple to be worn the week of the game to class. Anything Albion goes,” said Lawrence Mikowski (’22).
This played into the team’s mentality when it came to preparing. Alma did not have the winning record out of the two. Hence, the stakes to beat them were higher this year.
“We’ve lost to Albion the past few years and last year was especially hard since we were so close in double overtime. If there was a year to beat them and ‘shut them up’ it was this year,” said Mikowski.
The hunger for a win against Albion was not the only fuel this year.
During the week leading up to the game, a feud occurred with Albion’s retired Football Coach, Craig Rundle, commenting on one of Alma’s football player’s tweet.
Rundle instigated the argument when he commented on a current player’s picture of Coach Couch and referred to him as the player’s mom. This remark sparked an abundance of responses and support from the Alma community and past players.
“I felt obligated [to say something] because I have a lot of respect for Coach Couch and what was said didn’t sit right with me,” said Brenden Newvine(’19), a former Alma College football player.
Many athletes like Newvine stepped in to respond to Rundle’s remarks out of shock and respect for the program and coaching staff. The responses to Rundle focused on how unnecessary his comments were and how no coach at Alma would go out of their way to degrade another team like Rundle did.
Mikowski, who responded to Rundle about his character, said, “As soon as Coach Couch saw my tweet, he sent a full team text out just reminding everyone to stay off social media and not get involved. Once again, since I’m not technically on the team, it wasn’t really giving the program a bad look. I was just a student standing up for his school.”
Mikowski and Newvine’s responses were met with Rundle’s taunts of his Championship rings and trophies from his time as a Coach at Albion. However, for every taunt, there was an equal amount of responses about character and integrity from the Alma Community.
There was so much backlash towards Rundle that he even deleted his Twitter following the feud.
“I was proud of our guys. None of the current players responded at all to his tweet. Some past players did and he attempted to degrade them as well. Once again, I am proud of the Scots for taking the higher road. Albion’s AD and current coach reached out to apologize for Mr. Rundle’s remarks,” said Couch.
Despite Rundle’s attempt to degrade and distract the team, the football team stayed focused on the task at hand – winning Saturday’s game. The feud became another incentive for the team to use when prepping for the game.
Coach Couch also used it as a learning opportunity for not only the team, but himself as a Coach.
“Just focus on what you can control. I can’t control what someone, so distant from our program says or does. One of his goals may have been to distract us…when you have a task to complete, you can’t let distractions get in the way of your preparations. I love this team and love how our men showed maturity and focus,” said Couch.