That’s how long it’s been since an Airline football team has reached the semifinals of the state playoffs.
Tonight, the Vikings have a chance to end that drought.
But standing in the way is a formidable and familiar foe — the West Monroe Rebels.
The No. 6 seed Vikings (10-2) face the No. 3 seed Rebels (10-2) at Rebel Stadium in West Monroe.
The Rebels pedigree is well known. West Monroe has a Hall of Fame coach in Don Shows and eight state championship since 1993. The latest came last season.
Airline coach Bo Meeks knows his team is an underdog with an opportunity tonight.
“We’re trying to stress to the guys and they’ve got to understand that the game is going to be played between the white lines,” Meeks said earlier this week. “It’s not going to be the crowd or the atmosphere or anything like that. It’s strictly the game just like it’s been. I feel like if we can focus on that and play Airline football we’ve got a chance to make something happen Friday night.”
Airline and West Monroe were in the same district from 2001 to 2010. West Monroe won every game.
Of course, none of the other teams in the district or for that matter around the state had a lot of success against the Rebels.
The North Louisiana 5A district was split in two in the 2010 reclassification. Airline won a share of its first district championship since 1998 this season.
The two teams have one common opponent. The Rebels defeated Byrd 38-14 in the season opener, and the Vikings lost to the Yellow Jackets 31-30 in Week 10.
West Monroe’s two losses were to Calvary Baptist 40-29 in Week 2, and undefeated American Heritage of Delray Beach, Fla., 31-7 in Week 9. The Rebels defeated Denham Springs 31-14 in the first round of the playoffs and Acadiana 24-0 last week.
Like Byrd, West Monroe is primarily a running team.
“They have good size up front like always,” Meeks said. “The quarterback and running backs are very good, tough to tackle. We’re going to have a big challenge getting them down in space. That’s going to be a big key for us, keeping them from getting big plays.”
Last week, West Monroe led Acadiana just 3-0 at the half and pulled away in the second. Segrick Williams led the Rebels with 89 yards on 12 carries.
Meeks said the Rebels are also solid defensively. West Monroe has allowed 14.6 points per game. Airline is averaging 32.5.
Vikings quarterback Hayden Hildebrand has passed for 2,771 yards and 25 touchdowns. He has four playmaking receivers he has counted on all season — Laterious Pouncy (54 catches, 958 yards, 7 TDs), Trey Turner (35-567, 10), Logan Williams (32-488, 5) and Chris Stinnett (41-453, 2).
Michael Nunnery leads the team in rushing with 656 yards. He also has 214 yards receiving.
“Like I’ve said the last two weeks, we’ve got to make the most of our opportunities offensively,” Meeks said. “We’ve got to be patient and take what they give us.”