After suffering a narrow one-point loss to the Smith County High School Owls two years ago in the second round of the Class 3A playoffs, the Loudon High School Redskins exacted revenge Friday night with a 41-7 win to advance to the quarterfinals for the first time since 2014.
“We talked about that — a lot of these guys that are seniors right now were sophomores on that team and played a big role,” Jeff Harig, LHS head football coach, said. “I don’t know if revenge was a factor, but for sure atonement was a big deal. We knew we were the better team, and it was just a matter of going out and executing and proving that.”
Each team gave up a turnover on the first offensive series before the Redskins capitalized on a Kyle Smallen interception in the Smith County red zone.
Two plays in, Drew Jackson ran the ball twice for 21 yards and the first touchdown of the night to give Loudon an early 7-0 lead.
Loudon would have scored another touchdown before the end of the first quarter when quarterback Keaton Harig delivered a 40-yard pass to Kaden Dockins, but it was called back for an illegal-man-downfield penalty.
Loudon suffered two more penalties on the drive, but Keaton Harig capped off it off 11 plays later with a six-yard scamper into the end zone to extend the lead to 14.
The Redskins racked up nine penalties in the game.
“It’s uncharacteristic for us,” Jeff Harig said. “I jinxed this thing earlier in the week on my radio show. I made the comment, ‘We haven’t turned the ball over in four weeks,’ and then the floodgates opened. Uncharacteristic turnovers, lack of discipline with some pre-snap penalties ... you’re not going to advance out of the quarterfinals with play like that, so we know what we’re up against and the level of execution that it takes. Ultimately, we just have to pick it up.”
Keaton Harig completed his only touchdown pass of the night on the next drive with an 11-yard completion to Jackson to go up 21-0. However, the Redskins’ passing attack was inconsistent and gave up four interceptions.
“It just wasn’t where we wanted it to be,” Jeff Harig said. “I think they were confusing him (Keaton Harig) a little bit. This was the first time we saw a team play some secondary stuff the way they did. He missed some reads. The bottom line is he’s been a playmaker for us all year, and tonight wasn’t his night.”
The biggest play of the night came just before halftime when Mark Ridenour grabbed an interception and returned it all the way for 70 yards to give the Redskins a 27-0 lead at the break.
“I just heard Drew (Jackson) yell, ‘Come over here’,” Ridenour said. “I was like, ‘All right.’ I ran over there, and he had a good block and everyone else was blocking ... just took it home. We played cover two, and we had a good one. We expected this kind of game. We had three films on them and watched every play.”
The Owls gained some momentum early in the third quarter after scoring a touchdown, but the Redskins soon responded with a 38-yard touchdown run by Kyle Smallen on a jet sweep to push the Redskins out to a 34-7 lead.
Smallen’s touchdown and the extra point set a new program record for most points scored in a season with 496, breaking the previous record of 494 in 2014.
Loudon continued to pour it on late in the fourth quarter, with the final touchdown coming off a 41-yard breakaway run by McKenzie Lunsford into the end zone.
Although penalties and inconsistent play hampered the offense, the defense came up with another big performance. The Redskins totaled eight sacks, led by Noah Burnette, Jason Blevins and Haden Houser with two sacks each.
“Coach Harig just gave us good play calls and just going in there hard and doing our job,” Houser said. “He had his blitzing based on how they lined up, so he put us right where we need to be.”
The Redskins move to 12-0 and will host the Red Bank High School Lions on Friday in the quarterfinals.
“Any opponent you have in the quarterfinal, whether Red Bank or Upperman, are capable,” Jeff Harig said. “Having played Red Bank, it was a four-quarter game. We kind of got control of it late in the third quarter, early fourth quarter, and kind of scored a few touchdowns late. It’ll be a tough challenge.”