Bastrop 18, Airline 13
BOSSIER CITY — Bastrop's defense had its offense's back Friday night.
With the defense intercepting three passes and pitching a shutout in the second half, the Rams rallied for an 18-13 victory over the Class 5A Airline Vikings.
Bastrop is 2-0 for the first time since starting the 2012 campaign with wins over Greenville, Mississippi (49-28) and Ruston (45-30).
The Rams have won the two games by a combined six points while the Vikings have lost both of their outings by a total of eight points.
Bastrop went 0-2 out of the chute last season with losses to Carver (20-12) and Airline (27-26). Both of this year's wins, including a 20-19 Week 1 decision over Carver, were the type of games the Rams found ways to lose in 2017.
"Last year, we gave up games in the fourth quarter," Bastrop coach Adrian Burnette said. "We may have buckled under pressure in certain situations. You get in the fourth quarter (of a close game), and one side or the other is going to flinch. Last year, it was always us. This year, those same kids don't flinch, and we're 2-0."
Bastrop had its opportunities to flinch Friday night.
Phillip Jackson's interception set up Quaterius Hawkins' 13-yard touchdown on fourth-and-one to give the Rams their first lead, 18-13, midway through the third quarter.
Airline then drove to the Bastrop 14 before stalling on downs.
Melvin Smith's interception put the Vikings back in business at the Bastrop 45.
After the Vikings drove to the Bastrop 11, C.J. Mullins picked off a screen pass to preserve the lead with 7:34 remaining.
Airline's next series ended at the Bastrop 48 when the Rams stopped a fake punt short of the first down marker.
Jaden Davis' interception in the waning moments sealed the outcome.
Bastrop's defense continued to meet the challenge with the game on the line.
"Defensively, we've been playing great late in the game," Burnette said. "We gave up 13 points Friday night. Giving up 13 points in the first and second quarter and holding up late in the game is different from giving up 13 points in the fourth quarter. That's what I am looking at — how well we have played in the fourth quarter."
Bastrop's defense has started a new ritual this season. Whoever comes up with a turnover gets to wear the team's turnover belt. Last week, the belt remain encased. This week, the Rams' secondary passed it around with the three second half takeaways.
"Phillip's pick gave us the momentum. It put us inside the red zone and we went on to score," Burnette said. "Mullins' play really kind of tightened the screws on them. Jaden's pick came when they were trying to throw deep — they were out of timeouts — and get something going."
Bastrop won despite a series of miscues from its offense: two dropped touchdown passes, a fumble at the Airline 5-yardline, and an interception. Plus, the Rams turned the ball over on downs at the Airline 7 late in the first half and again in Vikings' territory with slightly under three minutes remaining.
"I was disappointed in the way we played (offensively), but the funny thing is that at no point did I feel like we didn't have control of the game," Burnette said. "We were legitimately the better team."
Burnette is confident the offense will soon come around.
"We are very experienced at quarterback, we have a very experienced receiver and two experienced linemen," Burnette said. "We also have six first-year starters. I'm not trying to make excuses, they just have to get their timing down. Jordan Mansfield is a first-year starter and A.J. Fenceroy played defense last year. Calvert Johnson was our No. 3 receiver last year, now he's our No. 1 receiver. That's a big adjustment.
"Look at our offensive line. Carterius Johnson and Terrion Morgan didn't play football last year, and Quandarious Rhodes was playing defense. The potential is there, but it's going to take a little in-game experience to get the wheels turning."
Hawkins threw touchdown passes to Smith and Fenceroy to bring the Rams within 13-12.
Doubtless, Bastrop has some early-season mistakes to iron out. But 2-0 beats 0-2 any day. Especially when it's against the same two teams you started out 0-2 against the year before.
"We lost to Carver by 30 (in the playoffs), and they lost five or six senior starters," Burnette said. "Airline lost four or five senior starters, but they pretty much had most of the same guys, including both quarterbacks. We have two tough games behind us. Going into the rest of our schedule, we have the opportunity to be that much more successful that we did last year."
Completing the second leg of back-to-back trips to the Shreveport area, the Rams visit Calvary Baptist on Friday night.