What’s over’s a new start for Vikings

After going 1-9 last season, Airline went 7-4 this fall and made a clean 7-0 sweep of District 1-5A, a success by any measuring stick, but especially by measuring one win against seven — an improvement of 700 percent.

Or maybe 600 percent. You do the math. (Seriously, you do it because I don’t know how and am not going to. I know 7 > 1, though, and in Airline’s case, a whole lot greater.)

After last season’s disaster and a 3-4 record during the football-forgettable COVID Autumn of 2020, the Vikings were basically grounded, spear-less and sword-less and plunder poor.

“Football’s always been fun,” said Viking senior linebacker Tyler Bullard, who started playing organized football around kindergarten on a team called the Dragons when, he said, his pads were bigger than he was. “Since I can remember, it’s been fun. Well, maybe it wasn’t last year. Or the year before, everything going on those two years.  Plus, I was out with an MCL all last year. On my freshman team our offense wasn’t very good so … it was fun, but let’s just say we weren’t the best.”

This year, in the regular season, the Vikings were. Started 0-3, then ran the demanding 1-5A table.

“100 percent fun and we all knew, even at the first, it was a big improvement over last year,” said Bullard, who might well be the “H” and the “S” in High School football. Good grades, good high school player, leader on the field. Not going to be a college player, but was going to be every bit of a high school player.

“We were in all the games,” he said. “Even in the first game (a 46-21 loss to North DeSoto), we scored 21 points with eight turnovers. We knew we could win; we just had to finish. Then after the Byrd game (a 48-28 win that pushed Airline’s district record to 5-0), things got real. ‘Wow,’ we thought, ‘we can do something here.”’

They did. Airline averaged nearly 50 points a game in district, never scored less than 41 and scored 75 against Benton. The Vikings were back in the plundering business.

Then another kind of pirate, the Haughton Bucs, ended it all with a 36-26 win at Airline in the first round of the playoffs last week; Airline won the regular season game, 55-42, the closest 1-5A game Airline played. But then there was the rain last Friday and the wind, and there was also the hurricane called Haughton, a tough team that plays in Round 2 this Friday.

“I told the team it was my fault that it ended,” said Airline first-year head coach Justin Scogin, who orchestrated the turnaround since his arrival in April. “All year long, some problem would happen and we’d fix it. I didn’t get that (factoring in the weather) fixed in time. But the team, they didn’t do anything wrong. What a good group. These seniors laid the foundation for what we’re trying to do, and what they accomplished is important and impressive.”

“That playoff loss put a bad taste in the mouths of the kids we have coming back,” said defensive coordinator Zack Pourciau who, like Scogin, came to the school in the spring. “They want to be better next year, to take the next step.  We’re pleased with where we went, but these seniors, after coming off a 1-9 season to winning district, to being district champs, they’ve told the team that now we know that next year, they can take it to the next level. Again, that’s the seniors talking; that’s the vibe of the locker room.

“Even though they’ve turned it around, the kids coming back have something to prove,” he said. “They’re itching and ready to go. We’ve hit the ground running with off-season.”

Bullard is one of those seniors who’ll be watching next year. And remembering. He’s played his last game, except in his memory, except in how he’ll “play” through what his teammates do next season.

“Being in the off-season competing every day and working out,” he said of what he’ll likely most remember. “Calling a guy slow when you beat him outside in a rep. Max Day and seeing who could out-squat or out-power clean the other guy. Just the competition and the fun …

“Playing with the boys, having fun with them, having a great senior year with them, seeing some of the crazy things we did on offense, things I’ve always wanted to see … Just having fun. Just watching all these guys succeed, and being a part of it.” 

Contact Teddy at teddy@latech.edu