The Airline Vikings are off to an 0-2 start for the first time since 2010. But they are just a play here and there from being 2-0.
Airline fell to the Bastrop Rams 18-13 in their home opener Friday night at M.D. Ray Field at Airline Stadium. The Vikings have lost their first two games by a combined eight points.
In both games, they had early leads and gave up TDs at the end of the first half.
Against Bastrop, that came on a TD pass with 7 seconds left that cut a 13-0 lead to 13-6. It also came after an outstanding effort by the Vikings defense in the first half.
The Rams started several drives in or near Airline territory, but the Vikings made two fourth-down stops. They also forced a fumble at the Airline 5 after a long run by Bastrop’s outstanding quarterback Quaterius Hawkins, a three-year starter.
“We did a great job and you know at some point they’re going to get their opportunity,” Airline coach Bo Meeks said. “We didn’t make the play before the half. That’s something that happened to us last week. We just have to find a way to finish the first half and keep that two-score lead but we didn’t.”
Hawkins was a big factor in the victory with his throwing and running. He was just one of a talented and experienced group of receivers and running backs.
“They’re very well-coached and very athletic, probably skill-wise as talented as anybody we’ll play,” Meeks said.
Bastrop cut the lead to one on a touchdown run early in the third quarter. An interception set up the Rams’ go-ahead touchdown run in the third quarter.
The Vikings had two very good chances to take the lead. After a good kickoff return by Brandon Marshall, Airline drove to a first-and-goal at the Rams 14 late in the third quarter. But three plays netted just two yards and a fourth-down pass fell incomplete.
With 10:13 left in the game, Melvin Smith picked off a pass near the Airline sideline in Bastrop territory.
Kaleb Allen followed with a nice gain to the 25. On fourth-and-4, Brad Fream hit Daniel Smith for a first down to the 11. But on the next play, Bastrop made perhaps the biggest play of the game, intercepting a screen pass attempt with 7:34 left.
“We made a lot of plays just missed opportunities to win the game,” Meeks said. “We had a couple of chances to put it away and didn’t get it done. Hats off to them. Proud of our growth but obviously disappointed we didn’t make the plays to win.”
Airline fell just short on a fake punt on its next possession. The Rams intercepted their third pass of the game on the Vikings’ final possession and ran out the clock.
Airline took a 7-0 lead in the first quarter on Jordan Gladney’s pass to Garrison Wade. Wade made a nice catch with a Bastrop defender on him to set up the TD.
Fream connected with a wide-open Smith for a TD to make it 13-0 in the second quarter.
Adrian Brooks had a good night running the ball for the Vikings.
While obviously disappointed with the loss, Meeks felt his team did improve over last week’s 30-27 loss to Union Parish.
“I saw a lot of our guys grow up tonight and now we’ve got to carry that over and minimize the mistakes next week getting ready for a very good Ruston team,” he said.
Ruston (1-1) fell to perennial Class 5A power Acadiana 28-21 Friday. With the Bearcats ahead by a point, the Wreckin’ Rams scored the winning TD on the game’s final play on a Hail Mary after the quarterback was almost sacked a couple of times.
Meeks is more concerned with his team making progress. He said the Vikings must continue to “mature and eliminate mistakes.”
“Unfortunately we played two very experienced teams the last two weeks and we’re not very experienced,” he said. “I think we’ve gotten some good quality reps against good football teams. It’s limiting those mistakes at crunch time. So we’re going to keep working on that everyday and plan on getting that accomplished next week.”