By JOHN JAMES MARSHALL, Journal Sports
One way or another, Thursday was going to be a rough day for the scoreboard at Airline Stadium.
As it turned out, it’s probably a good idea that the scoreboard took the night off rather than deal with the assault the Vikings were putting up in the first half.
A power surge near the stadium around noon actually put the game in jeopardy for a few hours and the game was played with just enough lighting to get by, sans scoreboard, game clock and play clock.
Not that any of those really mattered.
But there was enough electricity supplied from the Vikings’ offense to make this pretty clear: The Airline offense is a handful. That is, unless you aren’t impressed by 54 points.
In the first half.
The Vikings scored early and often in opening the District 1-5A season with a 60-35 win over Benton that was even more one-sided than the score might appear.
Here was the night for Airline quarterback Ben Taylor: Complete 17 of 23 passes in the first half, throw for 455 yards, have seven touchdown passes, play one series in the second half and do nothing but handoff and then take the rest of the night off.
Is that any good?
“There’s not many more things you can say about him,” said Airline coach Justin Scogin. “Last year, he really didn’t know all the ins and outs of the offense. He made up his mind this year to learn everything that’s going on and that’s a huge reason he’s having the success he’s having.”
The highest passer rating an NFL quarterback can possibly have in a game is 158.3. Taylor’s was 155.3 – in one half.
It would almost be boring to go through the progression of scores that the Vikings put on the board, but there were two moments of particular note that told the story of the night for the junior quarterback and the Airline offense.
On the first play of the game, Taylor found Jarvis Davis on a perfectly executed fade route down the near sideline that resulted in a 63-yard touchdown. It was a play that should be used as a tutorial on how to throw the pass and run the route. The Benton defender had it played well, yet had no chance. Zero.
It wasn’t as if the Airline staff had planned on opening with that play all week.
“They came out in a look we weren’t expecting,” Taylor said. “There was no high safety, so we called the fade.”
“We throw the fade at least 100 times a day,” Scogin said. “And I’m not kidding. We start practice throwing the fade, we throw it during practice and we throw it in group. When you take it serious in practice, you get really good at throwing it. He (Taylor) knows exactly how to throw it and where to put it.”
The other play of significance had far less fanfare; in fact, it was hardly even noticeable. Late in the second quarter, Taylor threw a pass to tight end Bob Patterson that was, well, flat out dropped.
Patterson was pretty dejected after the ball hit the ground but even though it was 20 yards downfield, Taylor ran all the way to Patterson to pat him on the helmet and then jogged with him back to the line of scrimmage.
The Vikings scored anyway on that series (like they did every series in the first half) and when they went back to the sideline, Taylor made it a point to find Patterson.
“I just told him to keep his head up,” Taylor said. “I told him I was going to throw him a touchdown when we back out. I had no idea we’d actually do it, but we did.”
With 1:42 to go in the half, Airline got the ball again and on the fifth play, guess who caught a 38-yard touchdown pass from Taylor for his only reception of the game: Bob Patterson.
With a 54-21 lead at halftime, the Vikings did not throw a pass during the entire second half.
Taylor had three receivers with 100-yard nights: Bryson Broom (155), Davis (138) and Tre Jackson (124).
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AIRLINE 60, BENTON 35
B 7 14 0 14 — 35
A 27 27 6 0 — 60
A – Jarvis Davis 63 pass from Ben Taylor (Preston Doerner kick)
A – Bryson Broom 60 pass from Taylor (Doerner kick)
B – Jeff King 27 run (Will Petro kick)
A – Tre Jackson 13 pass from Taylor (Doerner kick)
A – Broom 22 pass from Taylor (kick failed)
A – Jackson 59 pass from Taylor (Doener kick)
B – Trey Smith 28 pass from King (Petro kick)
A – Broom 47 pass from Taylor (kick failed)
B – King 1 run (Petro kick)
A – Jackson 4 run (Doerner kick)
A – Bob Patterson 38 pass from Taylor (Doerner kick)
A – Brandon Cooper 9 run (kick failed)
B – Caden Lee (Petro kick)
B – Jordan Johnson 4 pass from Malachi Zeigler (Petro kick)
RUSHING: Benton (40-315), Manning 22-110, 14-114, Conner Jeter 10-49, Lee 6-42, Zeigler 2-0. Airline (19-159), Cooper 7-125, Jackson 4-30, Derrian Milligan 3-13, Broom 1-11, Christian Moore 1-8, Austin Smith 1-minus-2, Team 1-minus-18.
PASSING: Benton (15-25-1-146-1), King 14-24-1-142-0, Zeigler 1-1-0-4-1. Airline (17-23-0-455-6), Taylor 17-23-0-455-7.
RECEIVING: Benton, Manning 6-66, Smith 4-48, Jones 2-13, Chandler 2-23, Johnson 1-4. Airline, Broom 6-155, Davis 5-138, Jackson 5-124, Bob Patterson 1-38.