Loudon High School head football coach Jeff Harig knew the game Friday against the Sequoyah High School Chiefs was going to be in his favor from the opening whistle.
Junior McKenzie Lunsford received the opening kickoff at the 4-yard line, made several jukes and sped past defenders en route to a 96-yard touchdown to give the Redskins a 7-0 lead 19 seconds into the game.
“I just had to put the team on my back real quick,” Lunsford said. “I just got up real quick so I could get everybody’s momentum up, get them hype for the game. I think it was a pretty big game changer. Until I did that, everybody was pumped. It was loud.”
Lunsford’s kickoff return was not just an ordinary one — it was the third consecutive opening kickoff returned by the Redskins against the Chiefs since 2017.
“That’s three years in a row — three years in a row that we have returned the opening kickoff back against Sequoyah,” Harig said. “That’s huge. Last year, we were struggling at 0-3, 0-4 and that opening kickoff set the tone for us, and we played a four-quarter game and ended up losing. Tonight, I felt like it set the tone, and we continued to steamroll throughout that first quarter.”
Loudon’s defense forced a quick three-and-out to set up the offense’s first drive of the game. LHS senior running back Drew Jackson picked up a 27-yard gain to open the series and eventually capped off the drive three plays later with a 30-yard touchdown run.
Loudon quickly struck again on its next offensive series when Lunsford broke off a 45-yard touchdown run on the first play.
The Redskins’ defense followed up with another three-and-out and recovered a high snap on a punt attempt on the Sequoyah 6-yard line. The offense capitalized on the first play with a 6-yard touchdown completion from Keaton Harig to Noah Burnette to give the Redskins a 28-0 lead heading into the second quarter.
“We liked our chances with that six-man front that they were playing,” Jeff Harig said. “We felt like once we broke that initial line, there was nobody left. To create those big plays, all we wanted to do was get to the second level of their defense, whether it be run or pass, we liked our chances.”
Sequoyah scored its only touchdown of the night early in the second quarter, but the Redskins responded with a 45-yard touchdown pass from Keaton Harig to freshman Semy Turner.
The Redskins managed to score one more time before the half thanks to a 1-yard punch-in by Keaton Harig to go up 42-7. Keaton Harig followed up with a second touchdown run late in the third quarter to give the Redskins a 49-7 lead.
“It was tough because we had some one-play possessions there where we drove down,” Jeff Harig said. “I think mostly, there was a four- or five-minute stretch where we had some penalties, had a turnover or two offensively where we just didn’t play our best. We had some backups on defense and gave up two fourth-and-10 or -12 situations, so we didn’t play that complete game that we’re searching for that it’s going to take when we play some of the very quality teams that are in our near future.”
Loudon scored its final touchdown of the game when freshman quarterback Aiden Montooth delivered a quick screen pass to sophomore Kaden Dockins, who broke off for 62 yards into the end zone.
“It’s great anytime you can have a team victory like that and still have success with your JV team,” Jeff Harig said. “We felt like it was good to get them some exposure. They practice extremely hard. We’ve given them starter reps all summer long and now for them to get out here and get some action and get noticed for their effort is good.”