Before the season, you often hear high school football coaches lamenting their teams’ lack of experience.
Every coach has to replace at least some offensive, defensive and special teams starters who graduated.
But it’s rare that a team has to replace every starter on one side of the ball. That’s what Airline head coach Bo Meeks faced this season on offense.
But you won’t hear Meeks complaining about it. One reason is the Vikings do have some players back who saw significant action last year, including senior running back Brian Fielding. He has the potential to be one of the top backs in the area.
Another is Meeks believes the newcomers can do the job necessary for Airline to be successful.
“We feel like we have a chance to be very good offensively,” he said in an email message.
Perhaps the main reason for optimism is Airline returns eight players on defense.
“This defense has the ability to be very good and will be counted on while the offense grows up and gels early,” Meeks said.
Regardless of how many starters return, expectations are always high on Viking Drive. The Vikings open the season against Union Parish on Friday night in Farmerville.
“This team is talented and has the potential to be very good,” Meeks said. “We expect to improve on the success of 2015 and compete for the district championship and make a deep playoff run.”
Meeks is entering his sixth season at the helm of the Vikings. Last year, Airline went 7-4 and lost to Ponchatoula 21-17 in the first round of the Class 5A playoffs.
The Vikings won their first seven games but then ran into the teams that ultimately shared the District 1-5A title — Evangel, Byrd and Parkway.
For the second time, Meeks will be starting a sophomore at quarterback. Two years ago it was Noah Hildebrand, who moved with his family to Texas after the 2014-15 school year. This season it’s Brad Fream, who takes over for Thomas McKain.
Fream had a positive outing in a scrimmage against Benton on Aug. 19, tossing three touchdown passes.
“He is a talented young player with very good leadership skills,” Meeks said.
Meeks believes Friday’s opener will be a good test for Fream and the rest of the Vikings.
Airline defeated Union Parish 21-0 in the season opener last season and the Fightin’ Farmers went on to finish 5-6. They struggled against a tough non-district schedule then went 4-1 in District 2-3A and shared the title with Wossman and Carroll. They lost to Bogalusa in the first round of the playoffs.
NOTE: Friday Night Mix is a special insert in The Bossier Press-Tribune that will run weekly during the football season. It will feature information on all six Bossier Parish teams. In the future, a PDF version of the Mix will be posted online by Thursdays.
Sept. 2 @Union Parish 7 p.m.
Sept. 9 Green Oaks 7 p.m.
Sept. 16 Ruston 7 p.m.
Sept. 23 @Southwood 7 p.m.
Sept. 30 Capt. Shreve 7 p.m.
Oct. 7 Mansfield 7 p.m.
Oct. 14 Haughton 7 p.m .
Oct. 21 Evangel 7 p.m.
Oct. 28 Byrd (LHS) 7 p.m.
Nov. 4 @Parkway 7 p.m.
— Russell Hedges, firstname.lastname@example.org