Airline’s M.D. Ray Field was pretty as a prep football picture last Friday night.
The morning started off with a hint of fall and while it was warm by nighttime, it was far from Louisiana Summertime warm.
And there were the Union Farmers, one of the state’s best 3A teams, and the homestanding 5A Vikings, ready to erase the memory of a 1-9 season after three playoff seasons in the previous four, ready to erase the memory of a 46-21 road loss to North Desoto the week before, a semi-miraculous score since Airline turned the ball over eight times, had one punt blocked and another muffed.
And there were the year-old LED lights and the turf, an investment looking every bit worth the $1.2 million, the carpet green as new money, and the giant Viking blue logo, and even a full moon looking down on a clear night.
The only problem was the Vikings kept dropping the ball on the new floor. And losing it.
Three lost fumbles, one interception, one turnover too many on a back-and-forth game with seven lead changes that Union won, 26-22, with a late drive and a later defensive stop.
The Farmers didn’t turn any of the Airline turnovers into scores, but the Vikings didn’t finish any of those drives, either. Who knows what might have happened … if they’d just kept the ball.
“The frustration level for me personally might be a little high,” Airline’s new head coach Justin Scogin said. “Gosh, starting the season with two losses … I can’t remember the last time I’ve been on a team that started 0-2. I’m ready to win one.
“But for the kids, they’re seeing improvement,” he said. “Some of these things just take time. No one thinks we’re heading in the same direction as last year. I think the frustration level for the players is pretty low.”
One thing that should help would be the return of Cameron Jefferson, a senior and “probably our best athlete,” Scogin said. “We’ve planned on moving him around (he’s listed as a wide receiver) and playing him in a lot of different positions.”
Jefferson’s ankle was hurt for the opener, he didn’t suit up against Union, and his availability for Friday night’s 7 o’clock kick at Northwood in Jerry Burton Memorial Stadium will be a gametime decision.
There’s also the problem of the Falcons, who have an SEC-type defensive end in Taderius Collins and maybe the best defensive back in the state, Mar’Javious Moss.
“They’ve got a couple of D1 guys; we’ll have to weather the storm,” Scogin said. “But we have to do our best to do what we do; before I watch anyone else’s film, I watch ours. Our kids know we have to get better at what we do, execute the offense, and hold onto the ball.”
No doubt the Vikings are better than last year. Lot of good players out there. “Lots of heart,” running back Tre Jackson said.
The lights and new carpet alone are worth the price of admission. But even a new rug won’t recover the ball for you.
And on this turf, the Vikings haven’t won yet; their lone win last fall was on the road against Southwood.
At Northwood Friday and at Benton next week, Airline won’t get another chance to win on it until Sept. 30 when Natchitoches-Central visits.
Between now and then, maybe it would help if the Vikings pretend every football field is like that new white carpet in your great aunt’s “living room,” the room none of the kids ever get to go into because “you might stain the carpet!”
Dropping stuff too often can leave a stain on your record, the kind that won’t ever come out.
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