The Benton Tigers and Airline Vikings both lost heartbreakers in their season openers Friday night.
The Tigers fell to the Wossman Wildcats 37-34 in Monroe. The Vikings lost to the Union Parish Fightin’ Farmers 30-27 in Farmerville.
Both the Tigers and Vikings rallied to take leads late in the game only to see their opponents come back and win.
At Monroe, Benton got off to a great start. The Tigers stormed to a 21-0 lead and were on top 28-8 late in the first half. But the Wildcats recovered an errant lateral deep in Tigers territory just 10 seconds left in the half and scored on the final play, grabbing some momentum going into the lockerroom.
Wossman took a 29-28 lead with about eight minutes left. Benton scored with about five minutes remaining to go up 34-29, but the Wildcats regained the lead with a TD with 1:10 left.
The game was a long one, taking about 3 hours and 40 minutes. Benton hosts Alexandria Senior High on Friday. The Trojans opened their season with a 15-14 victory over Ferriday.
Reynolds Moore said the game was one of the most frustrating he’s been a part of in his five-plus years as head coach at Benton.
“There’s nothing that you can really point to, one or two things, and say we didn’t do this,” he said Sunday afternoon. “Literally in the second half you’re watching and you’re saying this is not really happening right now, is it? Just kind of like almost this helpless feeling you know.”
Moore said the Tigers had several opportunities to take back the momentum in the third quarter.
“The defense gave the offense the ball on the plus side of the field three times in a row,” he said. “We went three and out every time even to the extent of where it was almost a comedy of errors.”
The Wildcats were also able to convert several third- and fourth-and-long situations, also.
“It wasn’t like a scheme thing,” he said. “It was just a receiver just running by our guy and catching the ball. Or we might have good coverage. Things like that you sometimes you can’t do a whole lot about.”
Wossman quarterback Antrell Green threw four TD passes.
Moore seldom criticizes the officiating, but he wasn’t pleased with how it went Friday night. He thought a holding penalty was missed on Wossman’s final TD. He also believed the Wossman receivers started before the snap on a couple of touchdown passes.
But he didn’t blame the officiating for the loss.
“We just didn’t do what we had to do,” he said. “We didn’t make the plays.We’ve got some stuff to work on now. I thought it might be like that, but I was hoping we would still fight enough to come out with a win and be able to make those corrections and still get the win.
“Last year we didn’t play well but we were able to hold on and still win. This year we’re just not at the point where we can make a lot of mistakes and still win. Certainly when we play better football teams we’re not going to be able to get away with that at all. And so we’ve got to get better, and we’ve got to get better in a hurry this week.”
Moore was pleased with the way his offense was clicking early in the game.
“We moved the ball up and down the field, really ran it on them really well in the first half, really just had a lot of 20 and 30 yard runs early on, probably had five or six in the first half,” he said.
He said Wossman made an adjustment at the half that was effective. He also said the Tigers hurt themselves with some overthrown and dropped passes in the second half. The defense was on the field a long time.
The Tigers had to replace a lot of key players from last season, and that lack of experience likely contributed to some of the mistakes. Moore hopes the team will learn from Friday’s loss.
“That’s the biggest thing is at this point with what we saw Friday — and I know this sounds really, really stupid I’m sure — but we can’t even worry about winning and losing right now,” he said. “We’ve got to worry about executing and doing the things we need to do, those little things that we didn’t do this past week. And I think if we do those things we don’t have to worry about winning and losing because it takes care of itself.”
At Farmerville, Brad Fream hit Daniel Moore for a 30-yard touchdown with 2:06 remaining in the game to give Airline a 27-23 lead. The 84-yard drive took just three plays.
The Farmers started their game-winning drive with good field position at their 45. With just 33 seconds left, they took the lead on a 10-yard TD pass.
Airline moved from its 34 to the Union Parish 31. But a pass on the final play of the game fell incomplete.
Airline coach Bo Meeks said his team did some things well but failed to take advantage of opportunities, especially early, that would’ve prevented the game from coming down to the wire.
“We had the ball inside their 20 two or three times in the first quarter off turnovers and just squandered opportunities,” he said. “Just mistakes that we’ve got to fix offensively and we did as the game went on. We continued to get better and score points.
“They’re a really good football team. They’ve got a lot of guys back, tough and physical as always, very well-coached. Still we had opportunities to win the game; just didn’t take advantage of them.”
After a scoreless first quarter, Union Parish took a 3-0 lead. The Vikings then scored 13 straight to go up 13-3.
Adrian Brooks scored first on a 15-yard run. Thomas Williams’ TD run followed by Jackson Tinkis’ PAT put the Vikings ahead by 10. But like Benton, Airline gave up a late TD in the first half and led 13-9.
The Vikings extended the lead to 20-9 in the third quarter on a Brooks’ 1-yard run set up by a good run by Williams.
The Farmers got within three late in the quarter on a short run. Another short run with about eight minutes left in the game put them on top 23-20.
“We just couldn’t put ’em away and they were able to come back,” Meeks said.
Jordan Gladney hit Devin Bilbo for a big gain on Airline’s next possession but the Vikings eventually failed to convert a fourth down.
With Union Parish threatening to score again, the Vikings forced an incompletion on fourth-and-4 at the Airline 16, setting up the 84-yard drive to take the lead. Fream completed two passes before connecting with Smith for the score.
Airline hosts Bastrop on Friday. The Rams defeated Carver 20-19 in their opener.
Meeks is looking forward to see how his team responds.
“I think it’s frustrating to have so many missed opportunities, but we’re returning only seven guys so there’s a huge learning curve,” he said. “I don’t think it’s changed my outlook. If we can continue to correct mistakes we’ve got a chance to be a real good football team as the year goes on, but we can’t make the same number of mistakes we made (Friday) night. But overall I was pleased with a lot of things we did and the promise that we showed. But promise isn’t enough. We’ve got to make the plays when it counts in crucial situations on Friday night.”
— Staff Reports