The Loudon High School Redskins continue to roll through the 2019 regular season, picking up a third region win Friday night in a 49-6 rout of the McMinn Central High School Chargers.
The Redskins’ first offensive drive stalled after a bobbled pass to Kyle Smallen, but the offense managed to bounce back on its next series with three runs by Drew Jackson for a combined 38 yards and a score.
“You just got to stay patient,” Jeff Harig, LHS head football coach, said. “Ultimately, we had the right play call, put the ball where it needed to go and we just didn’t make the play. I think that play would’ve been a touchdown there on third down, but you just got to stay patient, and sometimes playing the pressure of opponents that you can do that to, it gets to you a little bit, but we’re going to play some good teams that are going to stop us. We’ve got to have that patience to line up that next play and go. You’ve got to preach it a little bit, play the next play and I thought our kids did that.”
The Redskins forced a three-and-out on the ensuing drive, which led to another quick offensive series for Loudon capped off by a 16-yard touchdown pass from Keaton Harig to Semy Turner.
The Chargers responded and marched down the field in nine plays, but LHS senior Mark Ridenour shut down the momentum with an interception close to midfield.
Jackson then carried the ball three more times for 47 yards and another score to give the Redskins a 21-0 lead to start the second quarter.
“I performed pretty well,” Jackson said. “A few runs, I could’ve extended a little more, but I got caught up a little bit. Overall, I thought we performed pretty well tonight. We made that a point coming into the game that we needed to establish the run early, and our line got a good push up front and it just opened for both of us — me and McKenzie (Lunsford) both.”
The biggest play of the night came just before halftime when McKenzie Lunsford fielded a punt on the Loudon 45-yard line, broke through a tight window and sprinted into the end zone for a 55-yard punt return touchdown.
“I was just trying to find open space,” Lunsford said. “Coach’s been on us for not catching punts and not getting good yards to field, so I just thought I’d catch it and go for it.”
Loudon’s defense came through again to open the second half with another three-and-out and a partially blocked punt to set the offense up in scoring territory.
Following three more runs from Jackson, Keaton Harig delivered his second touchdown pass of the night to an open Ridenour from 18 yards out to eclipse 1,000 passing yards on the season.
McMinn Central managed to score a late touchdown midway through the fourth quarter, but the Redskins responded on their final offensive series with a 30-yard touchdown run by freshman Isaac Chavez.
“Isaac is known for his defense and his hard hitting at linebacker, but for him to break off that long run ... you know, we’ve seen flashes of that in JV games, but to do it on Friday night under the lights is big for him,” Jeff Harig said. “He’s going to have a great future in our program.”
The Redskins benefited from the ground attack. Jackson led the team with 133 yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries.
“Well, we wanted to get Drew the ball,” Jeff Harig said. “Obviously, Drew is a big-play guy, so as you begin to get Drew the ball, he’s going to attract a whole lot of attention, so you RPO some. I thought Keaton did a good job of riding Drew and getting it out in the flats and using our RPO game. Ultimately, we’ve got to start thinking of us down the road. We’ve got to be in shape to play for four quarters, and so that’s going to involved 15-20 touches a game for Drew. He’s going to have to make sure he’s in shape to carry that load.”
Lunsford is also an explosive back that complements the power style of Jackson, which has proven a difficult one-two punch for opponents. Lunsford finished the night with 54 yards on five carries.
“I think it’s been real dangerous,” Lunsford said. “If they stop one of us, they have to stop the other, honestly. It’s hard to stop that No. 25 right there. I give him props.”
The Redskins move to 7-0 overall and 3-0 in Region 3-3A play. The team is off this week for fall break, but eye a pivotal region matchup Oct. 18 against a Sweetwater team that gave undefeated Red Bank a fight Friday.
“We’re going to respect our opponent,” Jeff Harig said. “We’ve got 17 seniors that understand what 0-6, 1-6 feels like last year. To be 7-0, we’ve got a lot to play for as we continue to go now for our last three games. I think this was that last hurdle. We got over this one, and now there’s some good football teams at the end of our schedule and into the playoffs. It won’t be hard to get them reigned back in.”
The bye week also comes at a good time as several players need to recover from minor injuries.
“This week’s good for us, get all these nagging injuries away if anybody has any,” Jackson said. “We still all got to stay focused. We’ve got a big week coming with Sweetwater ahead of us. That’s another region game, so that’s going to be big for us.”