“I have no complaints.”
That’s basically the first thing Airline coach Bo Meeks told his team following the Vikings’ 30-20 loss to the Neville Tigers Friday night at Airline Stadium.
Meeks also used he word “proud” several times when referring to the Vikings’ effort.
No, Meeks does not believe in moral victories. He told his players he was glad they were disappointed because that’s the way it should be after a loss.
But considering the Vikings more than held their own against the No. 1 ranked team in Class 4A — a team that’s probably one of the top five in the state regardless of class — there was good reason to be upbeat.
Airline (2-3) trailed only 14-13 at the half. Neville (5-0) finally took control in the third quarter, kicking a field goal on its opening drive and turning an interception into a touchdown.
“Ultimately, turnovers ended up swaying the game in their favor, but still, what we wanted to see tonight was our guys come out and execute the game plan and fight,” Meeks said. “I couldn’t be prouder of the way we fought, and defensively, just an unbelievable effort to make the plays that we did time after time even when they were put in bad situations”
Airline’s defense was stellar throughout the game, recording several quarterback sacks. The Vikings held the usually potent Neville running attack to just 90 yards.
The offense, which underwent some personnel changes, also showed signs of life.
Although he had a couple of interceptions and a fumble, junior Jacob James performed well in his first start.
He ran the ball well and threw touchdown passes to Kavonte Johnson (38 yards) and Darian Germany (26).
James completed 12 of 23 passes for 110 yards. He was also Airline’s leading rusher with 37 yards on eight carries.
“I thought Jacob James did a good job of leading the team tonight,” Meeks said. “I was very pleased. And offensive-line wise, we played really well.”
Johnson made a spectacular run after his catch. His touchdown cut Neville’s lead to 14-13 with 42 seconds left in the first half.
Neville was called offsides before the PAT attempt and Meeks decided to go for two, but the try failed.
Brynden Vance gave Airline the early momentum when he blocked a punt and returned it 26 yards for the game’s first touchdowns. Vance also had a sack.
The Tigers quickly tied it on a 47-yard reverse pass to Kylon Highshaw, who caught three touchdown passes.
Highshaw went 45 yards for his second TD after a missed tackle in the flat. On his third, an 18-yarder, he went up between two Airline defenders for the ball.
Airline has played the toughest schedule of any Bossier Parish school. The Vikings start District 1-5A play at home Thursday night against fifth-ranked Byrd (5-0).
The way Airline played against Neville should boost the Vikings’ confidence.
“I think it definitely will,” Meeks said. “With the moves we made last week as far as personnel and doing some different things, I feel like it gave us a little shot in the arm tonight.”
Russell Hedges is the sports editor of the Bossier Press-Tribune. You can contact him by e-mail at rhedges@bossierpress. com