Despite frigid temperatures Friday night, the Loudon High School Redskins caught fire early and never looked back in a 49-14 rout of the Alvin C. York Institute Dragons in the first round of the Class 3A playoffs.
“I think ultimately, it puts last week behind us,” Jeff Harig, LHS head football coach, said. “As big as Friday against Red Bank was, it carried over with us, not only through this week, but into this night, and we weren’t ready to play the type of game that York brought. It’s good now to get that over with, and let’s get really focused now. It’s week two and let’s go.”
The Redskins struck first after three straight carries by Drew Jackson led to a 48-yard touchdown pass from Keaton Harig to Mark Ridenour to give Loudon a 7-0 lead early in the first quarter.
Loudon’s defense forced a fumble on the Dragons’ first offensive play and recovered the ball on the 19-yard line. Keaton Harig then delivered a 19-yard touchdown pass to Kyle Smallen to quickly extend the lead to 14.
York’s offense struggled again on the next drive, fumbling a pitch on the fifth play and turning the ball over at midfield.
After a 16-yard pass from Keaton Harig to Tyler Whitfield and a 22-yard run by McKenzie Lunsford, the Redskins scored their third touchdown through the air with another hookup from Keaton Harig to Smallen.
“They were huge because when York figured out some of their power run game, they got away from that option and the fumbling and all that stuff, and they really just kind of came right at us,” Jeff Harig said. “To get an early lead and kind of weather the storm a little bit throughout the second and third quarter, that big start was very important.”
York then strung together the longest offensive series of the night with a 22-play drive that ultimately fell inches short when the Redskins’ defense came up with a big stop on a fourth and 10 to take over on their own 4-yard line.
From there, Jackson carried the ball three times for a combined 32 yards. Keaton Harig then delivered an over-the-shoulder pass to Kaden Dockins for a 35-yard gain to set the offense up in scoring territory.
Keaton Harig hooked up with a wide open Smallen for a third score, this time from 33 yards out to push the Redskins out to a 28-0 lead.
“We were running kind of rub routes to get defenders separated and confused,” Keaton Harig said. “Our guys just broke open deep.”
The Dragons quickly responded on their next drive with a 59-yard run to set the offense up in the Loudon red zone. Five plays later, quarterback Dalton Barger rushed into the end zone to cut Loudon’s lead to 28-7 at the break.
“We’ve lived all year long on blitzing, penetration, getting up field, creating big plays,” Jeff Harig said. “Because they were foot-to-foot and in there so tight, they were living ahead of the down-and-distance. There were a lot of second-and-fives, second-and-six, third-and-two and they were able to convert. We didn’t play as physical as we wanted to, and a credit to them, the foot-to-foot alignments that they had and the physical play of their team really kept it a game, really, for much of three quarters.”
The Dragons stuck to the ground game and struck early in the third quarter with a 39-yard run by Thomas Miller to cut the lead to 28-14.
Jeff Harig decided to make some adjustments to finally stop York’s methodical rushing attack.
“We went to a five-man front — we did it actually before the half,” he said. “That seemed to at least get us one more body up there to save our linebackers a little bit. We kind of bend but don’t break until we were able to get one negative play to get ahead of the down-and-distance. ... At the end of the day, we kept scoring.”
The Redskins responded after recovering an onside kick on their own 45-yard line. The Dragons were called for two facemask penalties in three plays, which led to a 13-yard touchdown pass from Keaton Harig to Noah Burnette.
Keaton Harig delivered his sixth scoring pass of the night at the end of the third quarter when he threw a 31-yard strike to an open Ridenour to give Loudon the 42-14 lead.
York put together another promising offensive series to start the fourth quarter before Ridenour leaped for an interception and returned it 55 yards to the York 22-yard line. Keaton Harig completed his seventh and final touchdown pass of the night to Justin Farmer from 21 yards out.
Keaton Harig finished the night 13 of 15 for 264 yards and a school-record seven touchdowns.
“It was obvious they were hellbent on stopping our run game,” Jeff Harig said. “Every time we broke free, there was another guy there, so I think it’s a credit to Coach (Candics) Jones to take advantage of what the defense gave us, and a credit to our receivers and quarterback and our line to protect him. We had a lot of big plays in the passing game and having seven touchdowns is huge.”
The Redskins advance to the second round and Friday will host the Smith County High School Owls.
“It’s a big game for us,” Keaton Harig said. “We’ve got Red Bank (in the quarterfinals) if they make it through. We can’t look ahead to them, but we just need to stay focused on our opponent.”