Laird Wins Foot­ball Ring

GRAD­U­ATE PLAYS SPRINT FOOT­BALL

Washington County Enterprise-Leader - - SPORTS WEEK - By Mark Humphrey

SPRING­DALE — The cham­pi­onship ring that eluded Zeke Laird in high school is now on his fin­ger af­ter a fresh­man sea­son of play­ing Sprint Foot­ball for Army at the U.S. Mil­i­tary Academy at West Point, N.Y.

“We never won a ring at Prairie Grove, but Zeke has one now,” said his father, Craig Laird, one of Zeke’s for­mer high school coaches, beam­ing as Zeke showed off his 2017 Na­tional Cham­pi­onship Sprint Foot­ball ring dur­ing a send-off for ser­vice academy ap­pointees hosted by Con­gress­man Steve Wo­mack Satur­day at Spring­dale Har-Ber High School.

The Laird fam­ily at­tended for the send-off hosted by Wo­mack for the sec­ond year. Last year, Wo­mack ap­pointed Zeke Laird in 2017 to the the U.S. Mil­i­tary Academy at West Point, N.Y. He is home vis­it­ing fam­ily dur­ing the sum­mer break. Zeke Laird cheered on Farm­ing­ton 2018 grad­u­ate Ja­van Jowers, whom Wo­mack ap­pointed to the U.S. Air Force Academy this year.

“What Sprint foot­ball is, it’s reg­u­lar foot­ball but it’s got a weightlimit,” Zeke Laird ex­plained. “You have to make weight twice a week at 178 (pounds), and so ev­ery­one in the league has to make weight at 178, so ev­ery­one is the same size.”

In or­der to at­tain a ring Zeke Laird hum­bled him­self, switch­ing po­si­tions from the more glam­orous po­si­tion of quar­ter­back he played in high school to that of an of­fen­sive line­man, the work­horse

mules, whose la­bor in the trenches fre­quently goes un­her­alded.

“I’m ac­tu­ally an of­fen­sive line­man which was an ad­just­ment pe­riod for me,” Zeke Laird said.

Zeke Laird de­scribed the ex­pe­ri­ence as a great op­por­tu­nity for a small-town kid, who wants to keep play­ing foot­ball, yet at 5-9, 178 pounds, doesn’t have the size to play on Army’s Di­vi­sion I team.

“Sprint foot­ball is per­fect for me be­cause it al­lowed me to go out play some more foot­ball and have an op­por­tu­nity to play some more foot­ball at my size,” Zeke Laird said. “It is a lot of fun. Be­ing on the team, be­ing a part of a group of guys like that, es­pe­cially when we get to go on a run like we did, go­ing 9-0 and win­ning the cham­pi­onship (in a tenth game against Penn), be­ing na­tional cham­pi­ons of the Sprint team so it’s a good time, a great op­por­tu­nity for me.”

Army won games over Post Uni­ver­sity, Franklin Pierce, Penn, Navy, Chestnut Hill, Mans­field, and Cor­nell to ad­vance into the na­tional cham­pi­onship game in a re­match with Penn. Both games were de­cided by 10 points. In the first meet­ing, Army won 24-14 on the road at Penn on Sept. 30, 2017. Army won again in the cham­pi­onship con­test by a 10-0 score on Nov. 10, 2017, to com­plete an un­de­feated 10-0 sea­son.

Laird and Jowers com­peted head-to-head in high school, each rep­re­sent­ing their schools in the Farm­ing­ton ver­sus Prairie Grove ri­valry, yet the young men will not re­new their foot­ball ri­valry for this sea­son, at least.

“Air Force does not cur­rently have a Sprint Team,” Zeke Laird said. “Navy does as well as some of the Ivy League schools, Uni­ver­sity of Penn­syl­va­nia, Cor­nell has one, a few other schools up in the north­east. It’s a pretty lo­cal league.”

Zeke Laird talked about com­par­isons be­tween the high school Farm­ing­ton ver­sus Prairie Grove ri­valry as op­posed to the na­tional stage Army ver­sus Navy foot­ball ri­valry.

“They’re def­i­nitely both in­tense games,” Zeke Laird said. “Prairie Grove/Farm­ing­ton is ob­vi­ously a big deal lo­cally. Army/Navy is also a big deal. It was the big­gest tents we had. The thing that’s great about the Army/ Navy game is that there’s more rid­ing on it. The Sprint Foot­ball, along with all of the Army teams, you beat Navy, you’re hon­ored by the su­per­in­ten­dent. You get a gold star to wear on one of your uni­forms so that ev­ery­one can see that you beat Navy.”

MARK HUMPHREY EN­TER­PRISE-LEADER

Zeke Laird, a 2017 Prairie Grove grad­u­ate and Army of­fi­cer in train­ing at West Point, dis­plays a Na­tional Cham­pi­onship ring won while play­ing of­fen­sive line­man as part of the Army’s Sprint Foot­ball team.

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