By TEDDY ALLEN, Journal Sports
Haven’t we seen this before?
Well, yes — and probably no.
District 1-5A cousins Haughton (5-5, 3-4) and Airline (7-3, 7-0) go at it again tonight at 7, a first-round Non-Select Division I playoff game at M.D. Ray Field at Airline High Stadium. Some people are old enough to remember when these two teams played before — a whole 29 days ago.
Airline won it, 55-42, the closest winning margin in the Vikings’ 7-0 district sweep and turnaround from last year’s 1-9 season. That first meeting on Oct. 13, a Thursday night, was closer than the final 13-point gap: Airline led 27-21 at the half and also by just six early in the fourth quarter.
But in reality, and in metaphor, this is a whole new ballgame.
The Vikings eventually overwhelmed the Bucs in mid-October with speed and were “a little faster getting to the edge than we were prepared for,” Haughton head coach Jason Brotherton said.
“We’re going to try some different things (tonight), some different personnel: you’d be crazy to give up 55 points to a team and play them a second time the exact way.
“Will that be a magic formula?” he said. “I doubt it. But hopefully we can get enough stops to give ourselves a chance to outscore them, because I don’t think you can shut them down; they’re too talented on offense. But if we can get a couple of turnovers and make them punt a couple of times, I think we’ll be right there.”
Like Airline, Haughton can play offense too, but in a much different way. Senior backfield mates Colin Rains and Tyler Rhodes are a bruising 1-2 punch: among SBJ-area teams, quarterback Rains is seventh in passing yardage and in the top 20 in rushing yardage, while Rhodes is second in rushing yardage.
“The biggest thing with Haughton is that duo; they’re really good,” Airline defensive coordinator Zack Pourciau said. “And they’re able to do just enough in the passing game to hurt you.”
In the first meeting, the Bucs had a pair of wideouts with more than 100 yards each receiving in Jalen Lewis (6-158) and Rashard Douglas (3-101).
Airline likes to play fast and, with all that talent in all the skill positions, there’s little reason not to.
“We knew we’d be solid at the skill spots on offense,” Pourciau said of preseason expectations. “I think the surprise has been on the offensive and defensive lines, defense for sure because we’re so undersized compared to who we play against. We’ve got to use our speed to slant and move and that’s what we’ve done; we haven’t gotten pushed around like I thought we might.”
After an 0-3 start, the Vikings are the ones doing the pushing. Pourciau, in his first year at Airline, and head coach Justin Scogin, the Vikes’ rookie head coach, figured in preseason that 7-3 would be about right.
“Felt we’d start slow and then get better,” Pourciau said. “We might have gotten here in a little different way than we thought. Justin said at the beginning to give him three games to get the offensive going; he definitely didn’t lie about that.
“We’re still battling with some guys, still getting things figured out. But they’re steadily learning and we’ve been winning and it’s been fun for sure.”
Contact Teddy at email@example.com
27-Haughton (5-5) at 6-Airline (7-3)
Where: M.D. Ray Field at Airline Stadium
Series: Airline 27-12
Last week: Haughton lost to Captain Shreve 42-7; Airline beat Southwood 42-14
Rankings: Haughton is 10th in Shreveport-Bossier Journal Top 10 poll; Airline is No. 1 in Journal Top 10, and 10th in the LSWA’s Class 5A Top 10 statewide poll
Radio: Airline (Miracle, 89.1 FM, http://184.108.40.206:8192/kflo)
Notables: Fighting through some defensive injuries, the Bucs have lost three of their last four games, all in bruising District 1-5A … LB Conner Blank is second among SBJ-area teams in tackles with 113 … Senior RB Tyler Rhodes is second in rushing yardage with 1,079 and 15 TDs on 169 carries … Senior QB Colin Rains is seventh in passing yardage with 1,639 (104-171-5, 16 TDs) and is in the Top 20 among area rushers … The mid-October loss to Airline wasn’t decided until late: midway through the final quarter with Haughton trailing 48-35, Bucs senior receiver John Ecot slipped a yard short of a first down on a fourth-down play; Airline then scored and Haughton went on a 9-play, 80-yard drive to close out the scoring.
Vikes’ sophomore QB Ben Taylor leads SBJ-area teams in passing yardage with 2,730 … He’s also thrown 34 TDs … Senior receiver Daxton Chavez is first in TDs caught with 18, third in receiving yardage with 1,044, and fourth in number of receptions (50) … Cam Jefferson is third in number of receptions (53 for 627 yards and 5 TDs) … Junior RB Tre Jackson is seventh in total catches (41 for 442 yards and 6 TDs), and he’s also eighth in rushing yards (670 and 13 TDs on 104 carries) … In Airline’s 55-42 win over Haughton Oct. 13 at Airline, Jackson scored six TDs, five rushing — the longest was from 8 yards out — and one on a 28-yard pass play … Taylor was an efficient 24-31-1 for 314 yards and 3 TDs.