For a fifth straight game, the Loudon High School Redskins (5-0, 2-0 Region 3-3A) capitalized on big plays Friday night en route to a double-digit victory over the Signal Mountain High School Eagles.
“It was a big win, and I’ve got a lot of respect for our opponent,” Jeff Harig, LHS head football coach, said. “They’re a very disciplined team and play very physical and play hard. They’re not the biggest team, and I think that’s kind of their personality, but they got after us pretty good. They tested us, and I thought it was a good test by our guys to match their physicality and make enough plays throughout the game to come out with this big win.”
The Redskins opened the game with a quick showing on offense when senior running back Drew Jackson broke free for a 65-yard touchdown run on the second play of the game to give Loudon a 7-0 lead.
“It’s all about setting the tone early,” Jackson said. “I guess that long touchdown run really did it for me. It just really set up a big night for me.”
However, Signal Mountain responded on the ensuing drive with a four-play drive, capped off by an 80-yard touchdown pass from Jack Wilson to Rod Hutcherson.
Loudon fired back through the air on the next offensive series, throwing the ball four times. Sophomore quarterback Keaton Harig then hooked up with Mark Ridenour over the middle for a 16-yard touchdown pass.
The Eagles tied the score at 14-14 early in the second quarter with a 1-yard run from Braden Casner.
“I think we finally executed on defense,” Jeff Harig said. “We haven’t given up an 80-yard, 70-yard touchdown pass all year. On third and at least 10 there, we got beat deep, and then we gave them a short field on a punt, but once we started executing defensively and keeping everything in front of us like we’ve done all year, we were fine. Once again, it’s a unique challenge for us — the first time we’ve seen the Wing-T. They do a good job of running it.”
After the Eagles’ second scoring drive, Loudon’s offense began to rely on the rushing attack of Jackson and McKenzie Lunsford. Jackson carried the ball six times for 41 yards and a touchdown on the Redskins’ next offensive drive to regain the lead.
The tide of the game changed on the ensuing Signal Mountain drive when the Redskins’ defense forced a fumble and recovered on the Eagles’ 41-yard line.
Loudon threatened to score after a 25-yard pass from Keaton Harig to Semy Turner, but two negative rush plays forced the Redskins to settle for a 35-yard field goal from Ridenour to extend Loudon’s lead to 10 at halftime.
“I think they had a lot of respect for our passing game,” Jeff Harig said. “They played with two high safeties all night long. They rolled their corners up, but they essentially just committed seven to the run, and we committed seven blockers with our personnel — Tyler (Whitfield) and Noah (Burnette) were in there a lot. The strategy part of the game, they kept everything in front of them for the passing game, but I thought we showed a running game that we haven’t show all year for sure.”
The Eagles received the ball to start the third quarter and threatened to reach the red zone, but Noah Burnette came up with a sack on third down to force a punt.
The Redskins then put together the longest drive of the night with a 16-play, 68-yard effort that ended with a goal line punch-in from Jackson to give the Redskins a 31-14 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Signal Mountain was poised for another scoring drive until Whitfield came up with a 10-yard sack and the defense prevented a first down on a fourth-and-17 pass play.
The Redskins received the ball on their own 5-yard line, but moved back to three due to a holding penalty. However, Jackson lined up in the Wildcat formation and broke free for a 32-yard gain to set up the final scoring drive that saw Keaton Harig scramble in from eight yards out.
“I thought we played a complete second half,” Jeff Harig said. “We really started executing, keeping everything in front of us. As we built the lead on offense, it put pressure on them to throw the ball, and that wasn’t a strength of theirs. They want to be balanced so when they went to their spread stuff, I thought that went to our advantage because we’re built to defend the spread. Obviously, the results spoke for themselves.”
Jackson was named the Player of the Game after recording 16 carries, 167 yards and three touchdowns on the ground.
“I knew the way they played, once I got past the first level, it was just me and the safeties,” he said. “Every chance I got, I tried to squeeze and pass the first level and just get it out into open space. This is a great start, but we can’t get ahead of ourselves. We’ve still got a whole other half of the season to go.”