The Airline Vikings turned a tight game into a rout in the second half of a 55-21 victory over the Southside Sharks in a Class 5A first-round playoff game Friday night at M.D. Ray Field at Airline Stadium.
Airline (9-2), the No. 8 seed, will travel to Reserve on Friday for a second-round game against No. 24 East St. John, which defeated No. 9 Central of Baton Rouge 34-30 in the first round. The Wildcats are officially 7-4, but they forfeited their first three games, including two wins, after self-reporting using an ineligible player.
Southside, located in Youngsville just outside Lafayette, finished 6-5 in its first varsity season of football.
Airline led 21-14 at the half. The Vikings fumbled the second half kickoff, giving the Sharks a chance to tie the game.
But Tracy Hudson picked off a pass at the 2, and Airline simply dominated from there. The Vikings scored 34 straight points. The Sharks scored their final TD late in the game.
“I think that changed the game right there,” Airline head coach Bo Meeks said of Hudson’s interception. “They have an opportunity to tie it up. We get the stop and then go score. And then pretty much just keep our foot on the gas from there on. The defense came up huge in crucial situations tonight. Then the offense when we needed to turn it on really did a good job.”
The Vikings had four interceptions. All led to touchdowns. Brandon Marshall had two, including a 55-yard pick-six, and Melvin Smith had one.
Airline has been known mainly as a passing team this season. But the Vikings revved up their running game Friday night. The offensive line blew open some big holes for Jamal Johnson and Rovelle Young.
Johnson scored on runs of 25 and 2 yards. Young went in from five yards out. Young broke loose for a 69-yard run that led to a TD.
Junior quarterback Alex Garcia scored on runs of 24 and 33 yards in the second half
Kevin Pouncy scored on a 5-yard end around.
“I think we had eight rushing touchdowns this year, and we had six tonight,” Meeks said. “Just really proud of the effort on both sides of the ball — players, coaches. Just a great first-round win against a good football team.”
Thanks to several pass completions, Southside took an early 7-0 lead. But the Vikings answered with a 15-yard TD pass from Garcia to Daniel Smith. The first of seven extra-point kicks by Jackson Tinkis tied it at 7 in the first quarter.
Leading 21-7 in the second, Airline blocked a 25-yard field goal attempt. The Sharks capitalized on a fumble recovery to cut the lead to 21-14 just before the half.