Spring football 2015: Airline Vikings

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2014 record: 4-7
Spring scrimmage: Friday, vs. Northwood, 6
2015 schedule
Sept. 4 Union Parish
Sept. 11 Green Oaks
Sept. 18 @ Ruston
Sept. 25 Southwood
Oct. 2 @ Capt. Shreve
Oct. 8 Mansfield
Oct. 16 @ Haughton
Oct. 23 @ Evangel
Oct. 30 Byrd
Nov. 6 Parkway

With more than a dozen players that started or played key roles returning from last season’s team, spring football practice has had a familiar feel for the Airline Vikings.
Most of the players understand their positions well and know what’s expected of them.
“It is a lot of just kind of cleaning things up and not a lot of teaching involved,” head coach Bo Meeks said. “We can spend a little bit more time teaching the young guys.”
One area of concern is the offensive line. Only first-team All-Parish selection Colton Prater, one of the state’s top recruits, returns there.
But it isn’t a huge concern, Meeks said.
“We are replacing four offensive linemen, but we’re replacing all four with guys that are going to be seniors so they’re experienced guys,” he said. “They just haven’t played in a lot of game situations.”
The Vikings also have some holes to fill on the defensive line. Tyler McCallister, a second-team All-Parish selection, returns there.
“We’re just evaluating everybody really up front besides Tyler and finding out where our depth’s going to come from and just making sure we’re getting the right guys in the right spot,” Meeks said.
Many of the Vikings’ returnees are at the skill positions. Those include quarterbacks Noah Hildebrand, a second-team All-Parish selection, and Thomas McKain. Hildebrand was the starter for most of the season and the entire second half. McKain started a couple of games in the first half of the season, including a victory over Franklin Parish.
Other first-team All-Parish returnees are running back Shuncee’ Thomas, wide receiver Cameron Howell and defensive back Xavier Johnson. Thomas was the second-leading rusher in the parish last year.
Second-team All-Parish defensive back Tyrice Neal is also back. Also returning are second-team All-District 1-5A wide receivers Harvey Calhoun and Darian Germany, linebacker Vertrain Allen and punter Bryce Bailey.
Linebacker Josh James, running back Brian Fielding and wide receiver Cameron Taylor were also key contributors last year.
Airline is coming off a 4-7 season ending with a 53-27 loss to Zachary in the first round of the playoffs. Turnovers and other mistakes kept the Vikings from winning at least two more games.
Airline has a new non-district schedule. Gone are traditional powers Neville and West Monroe. The Vikings will open the season against Union Parish, which won the 2013 Class 3A state title and reached the quarterfinals last season.
“It’s been a really good offseason,” Meeks said. “We feel like we’ve really gotten physically stronger and I really like the chemistry of this team. It’s been a good offseason as far as growing as a family. We are really excited about it.”

— Russell Hedges, rhedges@bossierpress.com