When D’Kameron White intercepted a pass with 1:46 left in the game against Ruston Friday night, the home crowd could sense victory.
The Vikings led by two. Ruston had all three times outs left, but one first down — maybe two — would’ve probably sealed the victory.
It didn’t happen.
The Bearcats forced a punt and Carlos Hunt returned it for a touchdown. Airline had a final chance, but Ruston forced a fumble and returned it for a touchdown and a 29-19 victory.
Airline dropped to 2-1 on the season. The Vikings open District 1-5A play against Southwood (1-2), which lost to Benton 55-20 Friday, at Lee Hedges Stadium this Friday.
Ruston, which ended a two-game slide against Airline, improved to 2-1.
“We couldn’t get a first down to run the clock out and just gave up two special teams touchdowns and a defensive touchdown,” Airline coach Bo Meeks said. “We really just couldn’t finish. I’m proud of the way we fought but we’ve got to play better if we want to win against good football teams.”
In Airline’s first two victories over Union Parish and Green Oaks, the Vikings used special teams to their advantage.
When Coby McGee returned a kickoff 92 yards for a touchdown — his second of the season — to give Airline a 12-7 lead in the second quarter, it looked like that would be the case again. But Ruston returned a kickoff for a touchdown after the Vikings took a 19-7 lead on a Cameron Davis rushing touchdown and a Nathan Otis PAT.
“We’ve got to do better in coverage,” Meeks said. “That’s just part of growing up. We’ve got to prepare to win on special teams. It’s got to be an advantage for us and it wasn’t tonight.”
The Vikings got another outstanding defensive performance. Each team only scored one offensive touchdown. Airline’s other score came when Zylon Newson returned a fumble 56 yards for the first game’s first TD.
“That was the crazy thing of the game,” Meeks said. “It was 29-19 and each offense scored just one touchdown. It was just a wild game.
“I was really proud of our defense. We had a couple of guys injured and some guys had to play a lot of reps. They battled all the way to the end.”
Airline played without injured running back Brian Fielding.
— Russell Hedges, email@example.com