The Loudon High School Redskins (8-0, 4-0 Region 3-3A) again got off to a quick start Friday but fell victim to offensive miscues and penalty-stricken drives against the McMinn Central High School Chargers.
The Redskins jumped out to a 20-0 lead by the first part of the second quarter thanks to touchdown passes from senior quarterback Keaton Harig to Kaden Dockins and Josh Gonzalez, as well as a rushing score by Harig.
However, the Chargers gained momentum midway through the second quarter following an LHS penalty on the kickoff and a 35-yard pass that eventually led to a score to cut the Redskins’ lead to 13.
Loudon managed to score again before halftime after Harig delivered his third touchdown pass of the night and his second to Dockins from 29 yards out to take a 26-7 lead into the break. But the coaching staff wanted more.
“We had some issues in our pass protection, especially through the middle,” Jeff Harig, LHS head football coach, said. “We have a call where we slide our protection one way or the other, and we really didn’t need to slide. What was happening was we would slide and they were getting us off the back edge of our slide, and so we calmed down at halftime and got some things adjusted. Even through that, it was 26-7 at halftime. They did pressure Keaton and they had a good game plan and forced us to have a six-man protection and it took us a little bit to make sure that protection was where it needed to be.”
Although the passing game has been highly effective, the Chargers’ blitzing defense gave Keaton problems in the backfield. Keaton said the offense made the necessary adjustments at halftime and came out firing in the second half.
The Redskins prepared all week to face a four-man front, but McMinn Central switched mid-game to a 3-3 stack.
“They just started blitzing more guys off the block and they changed defenses, and we’ve just got to be prepared for that during the game because people are trying to stop our offense,” Keaton said. “We would just start using Josh (Gonzalez) because they would start blitzing seven, so we would have five receivers open and they couldn’t really cover them.”
The defining moment of the game came midway through the third quarter when the Chargers methodically drove down the field and cut the lead to 26-14 after a 12-play scoring drive in which Jeff emphatically challenged the Redskins to step up their play.
The Redskins responded and scored on the next two offensive series on a 4-yard touchdown run by Keaton and a 20-yard touchdown pass from Keaton to Braeden Fray to extend the lead to 40-14.
Keaton capped off the game with a 3-yard scramble into the end zone.
With the win, the Redskins remain in first place in Region 3-3A and secured a first-round playoff game at home.
Keaton finished the night 14-of-34 for 192 yards and four touchdowns through the air. He set a new school record for most passing yards in a season with 2,122.
The previous record was 2,080 yards, which was also set by Keaton in 2019.
“It means a lot and, being a senior, you obviously want to rewrite the records and I have,” Keaton said. “I just keep building on those records, but the credit goes to our receivers and offensive line for doing their job.”
The Redskins will have a week off before finishing the season Oct. 22 and 29 on the road against McMinn County and Kingston, respectively. The coaching staff will work to fix the slow starts and clean up the penalties after receiving 13 penalties to McMinn Central’s seven.
“When you’ve got three sophomores starting for you on the offensive line, it’s hard,” Jeff said. “It took us a little while the last two weeks to get adjusted to how they want to play us. We’ve got to do a better job of forecasting what we’re going to see, and I think that only comes with experience. I think we’ll be fine. We play two pretty good football teams and they don’t need gimmicks to stop us — they’re just going to line up as they are and come after us. We’ve got to continue to get better.”