High School Sports

Football preview: Airport

The only real blemish on a great football season at Airport last fall was a second-round Class 3A state playoff loss at home to a tough Crestwood team. Yes, there was a lot to like with the Eagles in 2007.

Kirk Burnett’s team turned in the second-best season record (10-2) in school history, the offense averaged 379.2 yards per game and scored 390 points (the second-highest total in school annals) and the defense allowed just 208.3 yards per game and yielded a meager 156 points – the lowest points allowed figure in 17 years.

Burnett welcomes back five starters on offense and five on defense, including headliners junior quarterback W.T. Murden and senior linebacker Rashaad Hampton. Murden came on late last season as he settled in as a rookie varsity starter and finished with 1,000 passing yards and 684 yards on the ground. Expect those numbers to improve significantly. Now that all-region running back Brandon Larry has graduated, Murden could emerge as the focal point of the attack. Hampton, a two-year starter who already is Airport’s all-time leading tackler, was credited with a school-record 166 tackles last season.

The rest of the returning cast features all-region senior center Garth Boland, all-region junior defensive tackle Chris Phillips, junior linebacker Michael Matthews, senior defensive linemen Issac White and Evan Kneley and junior defensive back L.A. Brown.

Boland, who could also see time on the defensive front, graded out at 89% with 31 knockdown blocks and 25 pancakes last season. Phillips had 100 tackles and two sacks. Matthews rang up 109 tackles, and White finished with 81 tackles and three sacks. Brown picked off five passes and had 57 tackles.

Juniors Lameek Makins and Ryan Smith are dueling for the nod to replace Larry at running back. Makins showed explosive speed on the junior varsity team last season, especially in the kick return game.

Airport rolled to the Region 4-3A championship last fall with a 5-0 conference record – the first time in history the Eagles went undefeated in region play. This season, Burnett’s team is the team everyone in Region 5-3A figures to be chasing. The Eagles open the season Aug. 29 on the road at The Cage against neighborhood rival Brookland-Cayce.