By JOHN JAMES MARSHALL, Journal Sports
It’s hard to believe that a moment like the post-game celebration Airline enjoyed Thursday night would have been possible a month ago when the Vikings were 0-3 and couldn’t seem to get out of their own way at times.
You might not have believed it, but first-year head coach Justin Scogin did.
“There was always the possibility of this,” Scogin said. “I knew we had a good team, but the question was whether we could fix the things that needed to be fixed in time to get everything going.”
Consider that done.
The Vikings ran their winning streak to five games and stayed atop the District 1-5A standings with a 48-28 win over Byrd at Lee Hedges Stadium.
Airline played a near-perfect game in rolling up 511 yards in total offense and making some crucial defensive stops in the second half. No one even knew if the Vikings even had a punter until four minutes were left in the game.
By that point, Airline had a 20-point lead, but Scogin wasn’t leaving anything to chance. “Even when we were taking a knee in the last minute, I was worried,” he said. “We still had to snap it one more time. That’s when I felt good about it.”
Before the game started, he probably knew his offense was going to continue its recent explosive output, which is why he chose to take the opening kickoff after winning the toss.
“At the beginning of the game, you have a chance to get the momentum,” Scogin said. “If you can go down and score and get that momentum, that’s a big deal in high school football.”
As the two teams were going up and down the field, Scogin knew he would have to steal a possession along the way, which is why Airline tried four onside kicks.
“It’s a strategy every week,” Scogin said. “But we are just trying to slow them (the Yellow Jackets) down and steal a possession.”
The fourth one worked and the Vikings were able to score back-to-back touchdowns without the Yellow Jackets getting the ball.
That turned a 28-21 halftime lead into a 41-21 advantage. The Yellow Jackets were playing catch-up the rest of the way, which is not their game.
“We did have opportunities, but we just didn’t capitalize,” Byrd coach Stacy Ballew said. “We had a turnover and gave it up on downs and we couldn’t get a stop (on defense). We were in position and just didn’t make plays. But hat’s off to Airline.”
Scogin might have implemented his onside-kick strategy after seeing two remarkable plays in the second quarter.
After both teams had twice traded touchdown possessions, Airline had the ball at its own 32 on second down. A Byrd coach yelled out to linebacker Brooks Brossette to “widen out,” which he did right before the snap. That put the senior in perfect position to pick off an out route and race through the Vikings for a 35-yard touchdown to give Byrd the lead.
But not for long.
Six plays later, the Vikings ran a trick play when Tre’ Jackson took a lateral, disguised as a pass, avoided a Byrd defender who had sniffed out the play, and heaved a ball downfield to Daxton Chavez. As Chavez caught what became a 55-yard TD pass – there was no one within a parking lot of him – Jackson fell to the ground with an injury and had to be helped off the field. It was ugly and beautiful all at the same time for the Vikings.
When Airline scored on a 5-yard run by Cam Jefferson with 19 seconds to play before halftime, it gave them a lead they would never lose.
Airline quarterback Ben Taylor was 21 of 28 for 305 yards and the Vikings had two receivers with more than 100 yards – Jefferson (131) and Chavez (126) – and both hit the century mark by halftime.
Byrd was led by Devon Strickland, who had 115 yards rushing.
Airline (5-3, 5-0) will have another showdown next week when the Vikings take on Parkway, the district’s co-second place team. Byrd (5-3, 2-3) will play Southwood.
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Airline 48, Byrd 28
Score by quarters
Airline | 14 | 14 | 20 | 0 | – 48
Byrd | 7 | 14 | 7 | 0 | – 28
A – Ben Taylor 2 run (Ben Jump kick)
B – Lake Lambert 1 run (Abram Murray kick)
A – Daxton Chavez 10 pass from Taylor (Jump kick)
B – Devon Strickland 14 run (Murray kick)
B – Brooks Brossette 35 interception return (Murray kick)
A – Chavez 55 pass from Tre Jackson (Jump kick)
A – Cam Jefferson 5 pass from Taylor (Jump kick)
A – T. Jackson 18 pass from Taylor (Jump kick)
A – T. Jackson 9 run (kick blocked)
B – Lambert 9 run (Murray kick)
A – Jefferson 23 run (Jump kick)
Airline (37-151) – Jefferson 8-57, Kylin Jackson 12-57, T. Jackson 12-47, Taylor 1-2.
Byrd (43-261) – Strickland 17-115, Josh Allen 6-49, Malachi Johnson 2-39, Lambert 12-43.
Airline (22-29-1-360) – Taylor 21-28-1, 305 yards, 2 TDs; T. Jackson 1-1-0, 55 yards, 1 TD.
Byrd (2-10-0-47) – Lambert 2-10-0, 47 yards.
Airline – Jefferson 7-131, Chavez 6-126, Bob Patterson 5-64, T. Jackson 4-39.
Byrd – Strickland 1-44, Allen 1-3.