There may be no way to measure how much Airline head coach Bo Meeks missed Trey Turner last season.
In his first regular season game after missing all of last season with a knee injury, Turner did his best to show how much he can bring to Airline’s pistol offense.
Starting with a 78-yard touchdown catch on the game’s first play, Turner made a triumphant return to the lineup in the Vikings’ 34-12 victory over city rival Bossier at Memorial Stadium.
“I’m very humbled to be back on this field,” said Turner, who caught five passes for 201 yards and three touchdowns. “I know there are a lot of people out there dying to be on this field. I did everything in this week of preparation for this game and I just came out and executed to the best of my ability.”
With Turner and quarterback Hayden Hildebrand syncing up immediately, the Vikings (1-0) jumped to a 21-0 lead by the 5:43 mark of the first quarter.
After his first-play score, Turner set up the Vikings’ third score, taking a Hildebrand pass and weaving his way 38 yards to the Bossier 3-yard line. One play later, Michael Nunnery bulled his way in for his second score of the quarter.
“I’m so glad he’s back,” Meeks said. “He’s a special player. He’s hard to cover and they gave us some man coverage early. They had a lot of trouble with him. I’m really happy with the way he played and the way he pushed. I’m glad to have him back.”
Hildebrand, Turner’s senior quarterback, was equally as happy as his coach.
The Central Arkansas commit completed 11 of 22 passes, but made them count, throwing for 345 yards — an average of better than 30 yards per completion.
The Vikings’ big-play machine included four completions of 30-plus yards and four more of at least 20 yards. Only two of Hildebrand’s completions went for less than 10 yards and one of those resulted in a first down.
“It’s a brand-new season and that’s a good way to start it,” Hildebrand said. “You always have those first-game jitters and once something like that (Turner’s 78-yard catch) happens, they all go away.”
The way the Vikings started Friday night brought memories of last season’s opener when Airline built an early 14-0 lead and eventually held off the Bearkats in overtime.
It appeared Bossier (0-1) was going to replicate its rally when Tevin Robertson took a short pass from Samuel Dudley, broke three tackles and outraced the Airline secondary to the end zone to cut the Vikings’ lead to 21-6 with 4:01 to play.
However, the Bearkats fell prey to common Week 1 mistakes — turnovers and penalties — and were unable to muster much of anything outside of a couple of touchdown passes from Dudley.
“We shot ourselves in the foot,” Bossier coach Michael Concilio said. “We didn’t come out to play at 7 o’clock. I can tell you that. We didn’t play tough. Bottom line, quote for quote, we did not play tough.”
With Turner opening up the inside running lanes for the bruising Nunnery, the Vikings racked up 446 yards of offense in a turnover-free performance.
Despite the statistical dominance, Meeks was a bit worried about his team’s killer instinct.
Hildebrand pointed out the narrow margins of victory Airline produced a season ago and Bossier made one last threat to turn the game around.
After Kyle Briggs dropped a punt at the Bossier 8, Dudley broke free on the first play from scrimmage and appeared to be on his way to a momentum-shifting 92-yard touchdown run.
Airline cornerback Jaquvis Hart, who was born with a left arm that ends just below his elbow, chased down Dudley and stripped the football. Airline recovered and, six plays later, Hildebrand hit Turner in stride, allowing him to turn upfield for the final Airline touchdown, a 15-yarder with 11:51 to play.
“They said Hayden threw for (345) yards and Trey caught Lord knows what, but that was the most unbelievable play I’ve ever seen,” Meeks said of Hart’s strip. “It’s a testament to that young man’s courage, his perseverance. The play he made was unbelievable and it changed the game for us. A score out of them would have given us problems. We were able to get one and put it away.”
Connect with Jason Pugh on Twitter at @JasonSPugh.