With less than a minute left, it looked like Friday’s Haughton-Airline game would be heading to overtime.
But the Vikings had other ideas.
After Haughton threw an incomplete pass on fourth-and-3, Airline took over at its 38 with 46 seconds left in the game and the score tied at 21.
The Vikings moved to their 49 as the clock ticked down. Then quarterback Jacob James saw D’Juan Byrd running wide open in the Haughton secondary.
He hit him with a perfect pass and Byrd sprinted to the end zone with 21 seconds left.
Haughton had trouble handling Airline’s squib kickoff. The Vikings recovered and ran out the clock for a 28-21 District 1-5A victory.
Airline, which has played one of the state’s toughest schedules, snapped a three-game losing streak. The Vikings improved to 3-4 overall and 1-1 in district, keeping their hopes for a championship alive.
Haughton dropped to 5-2 and 1-1. The Bucs’ two losses were by a combined 11 points.
“We knew that whenever we play Haughton it’s going to be a heckuva game,” Airline coach Bo Meeks said.
James, making only his third start, played a big role in the victory.
He rushed for 144 yards on 18 carries. He also completed 13 of 21 passes for 218 yards and two touchdowns.
“I couldn’t say enough about Jacob,” Meeks said. “He was outstanding tonight. He’s just a battler. He’s going to do what it takes to win the game. I’m really proud of him.”
The play of Airline’s offensive line was also key. The Vikings opened up big holes for James and Kavonte Johnson, who scored a couple of touchdowns on short runs.
“In the second half I felt like we really asserted ourselves up front, which I was really proud of,” Meeks said. “We finished drives finally. That’s what got us in the first half. We had a couple of opportunities and had a turnover and a stop there, but in the second half we finished the drives.”
Haughton coach Rodney Guin said big plays were one difference in the game.
“They wore us down a little bit, too,” he said. “We’re not very big up front. They pound on you on offense and defense. They wore us down a little bit in the second half.”
In a battle of evenly matched teams, the first half ended in a 7-7 tie.
Haughton took the early lead on a 20-yard pass from Will Haines to Javonte Woodard. Airline answered with a 26-yard TD pass from James to Shuncee Thomas.
Haughton had chances to take the lead before the half. Haines threw a couple of long passes that could’ve been caught.
The Bucs drove for a touchdown on their first possession of the second half. Haines scored on a short run to give Haughton a 14-7 lead.
Airline tied it on a 1-yard run by Johnson on fourth-and-goal.
Johnson’s second short TD run early in the fourth quarter gave the Vikings a 21-14 lead. It was set up by a quick pass that Roderick Spurlock turned into a long gain followed by an unsportsmanlike penalty against Haughton.
Haughton immediately tied it up as Micah Larkins, the 5A 100-meter champ, returned the kickoff 65 yards for a touchdown.
Russell Hedges is the sports editor of the Bossier Press-Tribune. You can contact him by e-mail at rhedges@bossierpress. com