Like every coach, Airline’s Bo Meeks stresses that it’s difficult to win a football game without winning the turnover battle.
And if you turn it over a lot, things can get downright ugly.
That’s the way it went for the Vikings Friday night in a 48-13 loss to Covington in the first round of the Class 5A playoffs.
Airline turned the ball over seven times, including three interceptions that were returned for touchdowns.
The Vikings, who played one of the toughest schedules in the state, closed the season 5-6.
“We made too many mistakes against a good football team,” Meeks said. “We got off track and we couldn’t get back on.”
The game marked the final one for several seniors who played a big part of Airline’s success in Meek’s first three years as head coach.
Among those are linebacker Rodriguez Parker, defensive linemen OJ Smith and Orlando McDay, defensive back Jawillis McClinton, defensive end Brynden Vance, running back Roderick Spurlock, offensive lineman Holden Frick, punter Kyle Briggs and quarterback/deep snapper/fullback Chase Rivers.
“After the game was over I told them thank you,” Meeks said. “We won a lot of games over the last three years with those guys.”
In addition to the interceptions, Covington (7-4) had to go just 33 and 14 yards for scores after recovering fumbles.
Things started promisingly enough for the Vikings. On Covington’s first series, Parker picked up a fumbled punt snap and returned it five yards for a touchdown.
But things went downhill from there as the Lions took advantage of the turnovers for a 41-7 halftime lead.
Shuncee Thomas scored on a 2-yard run for the Vikings in the third quarter.
Airline should have solid nucleus returning next season.
That includes quarterback Jacob James, who played Friday’s game with a partially dislocated shoulder, running back Thomas, wide receivers D’Juan Byrd, Darian Germany and Cameron Taylor and offensive lineman Colton Prator.
The Vikings could also get some contributions from this year’s freshmen class, which posted an undefeated season.
“We’re going to have a lot of guys coming back,” Meeks said. “We’ve just got to get bigger, stronger and mentally tougher and keep working and improving.”