The Loudon High School Redskins’ week was cut short after school officials Wednesday afternoon decided to push the game to Thursday night because of the threat of Friday rain.
The Redskins weren’t phased and cruised to a 49-7 win over the Class 5A Walker Valley High School Mustangs on the road.
LHS head football coach Jeff Harig preached to his team before the game about “making a statement” and got the results he wanted.
“I thought the statement was fourth and 1 on our own 19 up 7-0 and having the confidence in our guys to move the pile and get the first down,” he said. “From that moment on, we dominated the game. This team was dangerous. I felt like our lack of focus may have been a problem, and I thought we were focused. We didn’t start off well with Semy (Turner) down there on the opening kickoff, but I thought our focus was there, and our guys really played a good game against a good opponent with a good offense. We stepped up, made the plays we needed to and got a big win.”
The Redskins started the game from their own 2-yard line and were forced to punt six plays later. However, LHS defensive end Noah Burnette came up with a 5-yard sack on the Mustangs’ first play that set the tone on defense.
McKenzie Lunsford picked up 19 yards on his first two runs of the next drive to put the ball at midfield. Loudon then split an even balance between quick runs and pass plays to set up a 4-yard touchdown run from Drew Jackson to give Loudon a 7-0 lead late in the first quarter.
Walker Valley responded with a 13-play, 83-yard drive that eventually stalled when the Loudon defensive line pressured quarterback Tucker Pope to throw an incomplete pass on a crucial fourth and 5 in the red zone.
“It was huge because they did possess the ball and strung together some first downs,” Jeff Harig said. “The thing we try to do, as we’ve talked about, is eliminate those chunk plays for touchdowns. Making them earn it five, six yards at a time, we were finally able to make some plays, make some three-and-outs. We got some great field position, and our offense converted to put the game away.”
The Redskins then put together an eight-play drive led by a 37-yard run by Jackson. Keaton Harig capped off the series with a 33-yard touchdown pass to a streaking Kyle Smallen to extend the lead to 14-0 midway through the second quarter.
Loudon scored again on its next offensive drive, which was sparked by a short swing pass from Keaton Harig to Jackson for a 35-yard gain to the 6-yard line.
Three plays later, Jackson faked a run, leaped up and delivered a quick jump pass to an open Tyler Whitfield in the back of the end zone to push the Redskins to a 28-0 lead at halftime.
“At the end of the day, we had been showing all that Drew run, Drew run, Drew run,” Jeff Harig said. “We’ve been practicing it all year, so it was a good time to use it. Their guys really flew up and we got behind them. It’s good for Whitfield. I didn’t think there were any adjustments to be made. They ran some specific stuff running the ball, so we talked about being in the right personnel package and, other than that, I felt like we were playing well.”
The Mustangs opened the third quarter with the longest and most promising drive of the game with a 15-play series that brought their offense within 15 yards of the end zone. However, Pope delivered a quick strike across the middle and Smallen returned an interception to midfield.
Jackson then rushed twice, followed by two straight completions to Lunsford, to set up an 8-yard touchdown pass from Keaton Harig to Mark Ridenour.
Walker Valley immediately responded on the ensuing offensive drive with a 49-yard touchdown run by Kole Hall to cut the Redskins’ lead back down to 35.
Loudon scored two more touchdowns in the fourth quarter with a 4-yard touchdown run by Keaton Harig and a 16-yard touchdown pass to Kaden Dockins to run away with the 49-7 victory.
Keaton Harig faced pressure from the ends throughout the night, but still managed to go 11 of 18 for 133 yards, three passing touchdowns and a rushing score.
“I knew our line could block them up front,” he said. “They just came wide, so I just stepped up in the pocket and did what I needed to do. I knew we were ready, but it was a short week so that kind of threw us off, so we didn’t get to practice most of the stuff. I thought we were prepared and ready to go.”
Offensive coordinator Candics Jones knew Walker Valley was going to key on the passing game, which forced him to strike a balanced attack with the run led by Jackson and Lunsford. Jackson led all rushers with 121 yards and two scores on just 13 carries.
“They’d slant really hard to one side, so the cutback was always there,” Jackson said. “The line would just wash them down, and it would just be me in the back or so ... I tried to take advantage of that as much as possible.”
The Redskins move to 9-0 and will take on undefeated Red Bank in a regular season finale Friday that will determine the Region 3-3A champion.
“It’s a big one coming up,” Jackson said. “It’s the region championship. We know they’re fast and physical, so we just need to come out and take care of business.”