After a rough season-opening loss to Ruston, the Airline Vikings wanted to come out strong in their District 1-5A opener against Natchitoches Central at Northwestern State’s Turpin Stadium on Thursday night.
That didn’t exactly happen. Airline trailed 14-7 at the half. The Vikings’ lone touchdown came on a 15-yard blocked punt return by Jaden Williams.
But sometimes it’s not how you start but how you finish.
The determined Vikings scored three touchdowns in the third quarter and added one late in the game en route to a 35-14 victory.
“We needed a win,” said Airline head coach Bo Meeks, whose team lost to Ruston 48-14 in the opener. “We were happy to get it.
“Hopefully this is a shot in the arm to give these guys some confidence. Haven’t played many varsity reps yet. They got some more experience tonight in kind of a different environment on the road. So hopefully that’s going to make us better and hopefully we can get another win and start stringing them together.”
Airline, which shared the district title with Captain Shreve last season, improved to 1-1. Natchitoches Central dropped to 0-2.
“Really good second half,” Meeks said. “I was really proud of the way we responded after really not playing the our best in the first half, but the defense did have a couple of huge stops in the first half to keep us in it.”
The Vikings stopped the Chiefs on fourth-and-2 after Natchitoches Central recovered an onside kick following their second TD.
Late in the half, Airline recovered a fumble after a 65-yard run by Ronald Smith. The Vikings fumbled it right back and Natchitoches Central took over at the 12 with 9 seconds left. A sack by Devarrick Woods ended the threat.
A pass from Alex Garcia to Jamall Asberry got the Vikings going on the their first drive of the second half.
“We just kind of got rolling from there,” Meeks said. “We were able to use tempo and played a little bit faster and just kind of got going a little bit and jumped up on them and really didn’t let them back in it the rest of the game.”
The Vikings tied it at 14 with a sustained drive. Rovelle Young scored on a 2-yard run and Jackson Tinkis added the first of his five PATs.
Airline got a break when a Chiefs’ mistake on an attempted punt gave the Vikings the ball at the Natchitoches Central 14. Garcia hit Young for the TD to put Airline ahead to stay.
The third TD of the quarter came on a 30-yard pass from Garcia to Devin Bilbo.
The Chiefs had a chance to cut the lead early in the fourth, driving to the Airline 7. But the Vikings recovered a fumbled snap.
Kameron Allen scored the final touchdown late in the game.
Airline didn’t get many opportunities on offense in the first half before coming alive in the second.
“We struggled to move the ball, didn’t have it much,” Meeks said. “They did a good job of controlling it.”
Garcia completed seven of 10 passes for 90 yards. Jamall Asberry led the team in rushing with 46 yards on 10 carries.
Braylin Demars set up Natchitoches Central’s first TD with an 83-yard punt return. Joe Metoyer scored from 3 yards out on fourth-and-goal.
Smith scored on a 40-yard run to give the Chiefs the lead.
Airline plays Southwood next Friday at Airline. The Cowboys (0-1)are scheduled to play Captain Shreve on Saturday night.