After Byrd defeated Evangel on Thursday night, the Parkway Panthers went into Friday’s game at Airline knowing they had a chance to earn a share of the District 1-5A football championship.
They made the most of the opportunity.
Behind a strong defensive effort and big plays on both sides of the ball, the Panthers defeated the Vikings 28-0.
Parkway’s first-team defense has allowed only one touchdown in the last six games. It was the first time Airline has been shut out since Bo Meeks took over as head coach in 2011, a total of 57 games.
Parkway improved to 9-1 overall with its sixth straight win and 5-1 in district. The Panthers finished in a three-way tie for first with Byrd and Evangel.
Parkway coach David Feaster won his 50th game on the field at Parkway. (The Panthers had to forfeit five games last season because of LHSAA sanctions). Feaster is 50-9 since taking over in 2011.
Airline dropped to 7-3 overall with its third straight loss. The Vikings finished 3-3 in district.
Both teams will host first-round playoff games Friday. Pairings will be announced Sunday.
It will be Parkway’s first playoff game since the Panthers lost to Acadiana in the 2013 state championship game. The Panthers were ineligible for the playoffs last year because of LHSAA sanctions.
Feaster like the way his team is playing.
“We really feel confident,” he said. “Obviously, we always believe our offense can score on anybody. But now we’ve stopped some very good run teams and some very good passing teams, and so we kind of feel like our defense has a chance to match up if we run into an Acadiana or a Destrehan, completely different type teams. We don’t have a lot of size, but we’ve got so much quickness and we’re tackling so well and covering so well. So we think we’ve got a chance. We feel pretty good obviously at this point.”
While giving all due credit to Parkway, Meeks was not pleased with the way his team played, but he also feels like the Vikings have a chance to advance in the playoffs.
“We’re obviously excited,” he said. “It looks like we’re going to have a home game, so we’re really excited about that. But no we really didn’t play well. We’ve got to make some corrections and get some things fixed before Friday night but we’re very excited to have a home game and looking forward to that.
“Parkway is a great team and played very well. We made way too many mistakes and didn’t make the plays we needed to make at the right time. The field was bad but they were playing on it too. We don’t make any excuses. We didn’t play well enough to win. Hats off to Parkway.”
With a steady rain coming down in the first quarter and most of the half, the game was played in wet and muddy conditions which made it difficult for both teams’ offenses. The game was delayed for 30 minutes just as the players were warming up for the second half because of lightning.
Parkway jumped out to a 13-0 lead. Robert McKnight scored the first TD on 4-yard run. The big play on the drive was a 31-yard pass from Keondre Wudtee to Hawkins.
Parkway’s Derious Bradford recovered a fumble at the Airline 48, but the Vikings picked off a Wudtee pass at the 2. The Panthers forced a punt and took over at the Airline 38.
Two plays laster, Wudtee hit CJ Morgan at the 15 and he took it the remaining 17 yards for a 32-yard touchdown and a 13-0 lead midway through the second quarter.
Airline had a golden opportunity to get back in the game late in the half. After a high punt snap, the Vikings took over at the Parkway 38. But on fourth-and-7 from the 35, Bradford picked off a pass and returned it 70 yards for a TD with 50 seconds left.
“I was worried they were going to go down and score and make it 13-7 at halftime,” Feaster said. “As well as we had played, we deserved to be further ahead than that. And then all of a sudden we get this pick six and go up 20-0 and that was just about ball game right there.
“Derious Bradford has really been coming on. He’s been playing great against the run and against the pass. He stepped in front of it and made a real nice play.”
Said Meeks: “When it was 13-0 right before the half we still felt like two scores in the weather we had a chance. I think the turnover for the score was obviously was a backbreaker, but again we’ve got to keep battling and give everything we have to get back into it.”
Parkway milked the clock in the second half and continued its good defensive play. Morgan scored the only touchdown when he ran through a tackle a few yards past the line of scrimmage, escaped a couple of other Vikings and sprinted 51 yards. The Panthers faked the kick and Deonte’ Hawkins passed to Ryan Black for the two-point conversion.
Morgan, who has verbally committed to Mississippi State, finished with 140 yards on 11 carries. On a night not conducive to passing, Wudtee completed seven of 13 for 76 yards.
Semaj Tarver was in on 11 tackles to lead the Parkway defense. Lloyd Cole was in on 10 and Black eight. Greg Jones and Bradford were in on seven apiece, and Kyler Marrus was in on six.
— Russell Hedges, email@example.com