High school football: Second-half rally lifts No. 12 Sulphur past No. 21 Airline

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For a while Friday night, it looked like the Airline Vikings were well on their way to a Class 5A first-round upset victory of the Sulphur Tors.

After scoring on their first possession of the second half, the Vikings led 28-10. But Sulphur wasn’t done. Far from it. The Tors scored five straight touchdowns en route to a 45-35 victory in Sulphur.

Airline, the No. 21 seed, closed the season 6-5. No. 12 Sulphur (8-3) visits No. 5 Landry-Walker in the second round.

Sulphur’s J’Cobi Skinner scored on a 75-yard run on the game’s first play. But after that Airline dominated the first half and early part of the third quarter, outscoring the Tors 28-3.

“They scored on the first offensive play and from there we settled in and after one possession in the second half we were up 28-10 and playing really well on both sides of the ball,” Airline coach Bo Meeks said.

Skinner got Sulphur going with a 31-yard TD run. According to the Lake Charles American Press, Skinner finished with 259 yards on 25 carries.

The Tors then scored on a 26-yard pass to get within four. Sulphur took the lead for good with 9:43 left in the game on a 6-yard run.

Meeks said it was tough to pinpoint what went wrong for the Vikings.

“We couldn’t get off the field on defense and we couldn’t stay on the field on offense,” he said. “I don’t know what it was. They have a very good football team. We knew how good they were on offense and they kind of got rolling and we just couldn’t slow it down.”

According to the American Press, Airline had 237 yards in the first half and 124 in the second.

Also according to the American Press, Airline sophomore quarterback Brad Fream had his best game of the season yardage-wise, completing 21 of 37 passes for 358 yards and four touchdowns. Senior Malik Britt had 10 catches for 170 yards and senior Brian Fielding three for 102.

Junior Zylon Newson scored the Vikings’ first touchdown on a run. Fream then hit Fielding for touchdowns of 50 and 67 yards. The TDs and Noah Sheets’ PATs put the Vikings up 21-7 in the second quarter.

Sulphur kicked a field goal on the final play of the half to cut the lead to 21-10.

Fream capped Airline’s first drive of the second half with a TD pass to Nate Fullilove to make it 28-10.

But that was it for the Vikings until Fream hit Britt for a score with 2:11 left to cut Sulphur’s lead to 45-35. Airline recovered an onside kick, but the Tors ended it with an interception in the end zone.

“We battled to the end,” Meeks said. “I’m really proud of the way the guys fought and battled. They did a lot of great things; just disappointed in how it ended.”

Airline finished with five losses, but the Vikings were in every game but one. That was a 45-7 loss to Evangel and the Eagles did the same to every other team in District 1-5A.

Airline came very close to defeating Ruston in Week 2 and Byrd in Week 9. The Vikings fell to Parkway 55-38 in Week 10, but it was just a three-point game early in the third quarter.

“We gave ourselves a chance to win in most of the games we played,” Meeks said. “The thing we’ve got to continue to do is find a way to win those close games against very good football teams. But at the same time I was really proud of the way we played with a lot of new starters on offense. I was really pleased with the way the offense came on as the year went.

“I thought coach (Seth) Stowell and the defensive staff did a great job. We were a little beat up at the end but those guys battled all year long against some really good offenses.

“Just pleased with the growth of our program. Obviously, not pleased with the final record, but as far as the way we played and gave ourselves chances, I thought it was a successful season. Really proud of our seniors. Again, we didn’t have a lot of guys coming back in many spots and they stepped up and provided really good leadership for us. Also, I thought our coaching staff did a good job of preparing, especially with so many guys in new roles, getting them ready to play.”

— Russell Hedges, rhedges@bossierpress.com