NCHS visits Airline in only matchup of District 1-5A unbeaten

Natchitoches Central running back Zion Thompson could prove essential in the Chiefs rushing attack Friday to keep the ball away from an Airline offense that scored a school-record 75 points this past week. Photo: Kevin Shanahan/NPJ Sports

BY MATT VINES, Journal Sports

BOSSIER CITY – When Natchitoches Central and Airline get together Friday in the only meeting of undefeated teams in District 1-5A play, two of the competing units are coming off of completely different experiences.

The Chiefs defense shut out Southwood as Natchitoches Central (2-2, 1-0) rolled to a 27-0 victory.

Airline’s offense? All they did was score a school-record 75 points in a 75-59 shootout duel against Benton to lift the Vikings (1-3, 1-0) to their first win of the season. Those 75 points are the most in a Louisiana game so far this season, although Class 2A Avoyelles has hit the 70-point mark twice already.

“The guys took the challenge of competing this past week (against Southwood),” said NCHS coach James Wilkerson. “Our defense really wanted to shut Southwood down and rebound from the game against (Alexandria Senior High, a 54-6 loss). Airline has a new coach (former Leesville and Parkway offensive coordinator Justin Scogin) that is doing some great things over there. That has always been a great program. He is getting the ball to his playmakers and using lots of formations to get matchups he wants.”

Airline quarterback Ben Taylor threw six of his seven touchdowns in the first half as the Vikings built a big lead and fended off a Benton comeback attempt.

Taylor finished with 372 passing yards and eight total touchdowns (one rushing) with Daxton Chavez as his favorite target (nine catches for 233 yards and four touchdowns). Add in two 100-yard rushers in from Tre’ Jackson (173 yards on 15 carries) and Kylin Jackson (120 yards on six carries), and it’s easy to see how the Vikings marched up and down the field.

This is an Airline squad that’s been inching toward a breakthough, taking it on the chin against North DeSoto (46-21) before near misses against Union Parish (26-22) and Northwood (35-28).

But the Vikings will see a Chiefs team whose belief is surging after a big win against a confident Southwood bunch.

Running back Jeremiah Miles was the focal point again with 127 rushing yards and a touchdown with Zion Thompson providing a complementary option with 73 rushing yards on nine carries and one score.

Sophomore quarterbacks Adam Guillet and Lannon Collum continue to split time under center with BJ Young remaining sidelined with a shoulder injury.

Collum took steps forward in the passing game with 43 yards on 3-6, including a 36-yard strike to favorite weapon Camryn Davis.

Guillet has more passing yards (120-110) than Collum, but Collum has needed fewer attempts (22 to 39).

“Lannon is doing a good job as he’s learning the offense while gaining valuable experience,” Wilkerson said. “We’re coming along at the quarterback position. We have to be able to throw the ball to keep people honest.”

Airline’s defense has surrendered more than 40 points twice this season, but allowing 26 points to a powerful rushing attack of Union Parish and 35 points to a high-flying Northwood offense shows the Vikes can offer resistance.

The winner will improve to a crucial 2-0 district record in a league where the competition is fierce and the talent is deep.

NCHS is in the middle of a stretch in which it plays five of six games on the road, and starting that portion of the schedule 2-0 could pay dividends when the Chiefs enter more hostile environments later this season.

“We’ll need to stay disciplined and not let all that bother us,” Wilkerson said. “The team is getting better at those little things that make you a great team. One of those things is how you handle traveling and going into other people’s stadiums.”