High school football: Second-half rally comes up short as Airline falls to Byrd

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The Airline Vikings trailed the Byrd Yellow Jackets 35-7 at halftime Friday night at Independence Stadium.

Byrd had 266 yards rushing to Airline’s 14. Needless to say, things did not look good for the Vikings in their return to action after having to cancel two games because of COVID-19 issues.

Airline head coach Bo Meeks knew that a comeback would be a major challenge. But he also knew his team was better than what it showed in the first half.

“At halftime I didn’t know if we would have a chance to get back in the game and we really did,” Meeks said.

Airline got within 14 points in the second half and also had a couple of opportunities to pull within a touchdown.

But Byrd kept its perfect record intact, winning 49-28. The final TD came on an onside kick return.

The Yellow Jackets improved to 6-0 overall and 4-0 in District 1-5A. Thanks to Haughton’s 27-21 victory over Captain Shreve on Friday, Byrd is the only team without a district loss.

Airline dropped to 2-2 and 2-1.

“I’m really proud of the effort in the second half,” Meeks said. “Hopefully that’s something we can build on going into these last two weeks. We just need to play better early. That’s one of the things we’ve talked about all year long is focusing and starting faster and we didn’t do that tonight.”

Meeks didn’t blame the two-week hiatus for the slow start.

“That’s not an excuse,” he said. “If we can do it in the second half we could have done it in the first half.”

Airline got into a hole in the first 19 seconds when the Jackets scooped up a fumble and returned it for a touchdown.

By the end of first quarter, Byrd led 21-0. Early in the second quarter, the Jackets scored again to make it 28-0.

Airline got on the board on a pass from Alex Garcia to Jamall Asberry. But the Jackets scored again with just five seconds left in the half.

Airline recovered an onside kick to start the second half. The Vikings took advantage as Asberry scored on a 34-yard run.

Byrd stopped a couple of promising Airline drives to maintain the 35-14 lead going into the fourth quarter.

The Vikings made things interesting in the fourth. Garcia hit Devin Bilbo with a 14-yard touchdown pass. Jackson Tinkis’ third PAT made it 35-21 with 7:56 left.

Byrd answered with a 20-yard touchdown run by William Berry with 5:58 left. The Vikings scored again with just over three minutes left. But the Jackets returned the onside attempt for a touchdown and the final margin.

Airline is scheduled to host Benton on Friday. The Tigers (1-3, 1-2) had to cancel their game against Southwood because of COVID-19 issues.