Despite a lightning delay and soggy conditions Friday night at Chig Ratledge Stadium, the Loudon High School Redskins got off to a hot start and never looked back en route to a 41-0 win over the Greenback School Cherokees.
Loudon senior tailback McKenzie Lunsford returned the opening kickoff 94 yards to put the Redskins up 7-0.
“I was just trying to set the tone, just wanting to see how my teammates were going to react afterward,” Lunsford said. “I just wanted to set the tone and see if my teammates would follow me.”
Greenback attempted a response on the first offensive possession with four positive runs by Ashton Orr and Micah Franklin before Loudon linebacker Isaac Chavez stripped freshman quarterback Brennen Duggan and Lunsford recovered the ball on the Greenback 48-yard line.
Seven plays later, Lunsford struck again to give the Redskins a 14-0 lead.
“I thought our guys showed that they were prepared,” Jeff Harig, LHS head football coach, said. “Greenback had an early game plan that they were going to try and control the ball and let that clock run, and they were successful at it. Anytime you’re able to return that opening kickoff for a touchdown and go up 7-0, that’s a big momentum boost for us. I thought we just carried that throughout the first half.”
The Cherokees put together a steady drive on the next offensive possession, but the turnover bug bit again when Duggan completed a 20-yard pass to Franklin that was stripped by LHS senior Jackson Williams.
Sophomore Semy Turner scooped up the loose ball and returned it 70 yards for another score to push Loudon ahead 21-0.
The Redskins scored two more times in the first half with touchdown tosses from junior quarterback Keaton Harig to lead 34-0.
Greenback head football coach Greg Ryan noted both turnovers early were too costly and the inexperience was evident.
“We’ve got, arguably, eight of our 11 guys that are freshmen running down on kickoff, and we had an opportunity to practice it live,” Ryan said. “Stuff like that doesn’t surprise you at this point, but I think we’ll get better at it. Defensively, we felt like when we got lined up and did our assignment like we wanted to, we did a really a good job. Offensively, I thought we ran the ball well early in the game, and then I thought we got a little gassed. We quit staying on blocks, we quit communicating.”
Duggan felt some nerves in his first varsity start at quarterback but quickly adapted. He finished the night with 10 completions for 80 yards and rushed for 17 yards.
“I thought he handled himself well, and I’m sure he’s not happy about the outcome,” Ryan said. “At the end of the day, I think he’s the first freshman quarterback to play at Greenback since me, and he’s starting on defense and I didn’t do that so there’s a lot of stuff on him. He’s going to be just fine. For the most part, he threw it to the guy that we wanted him to. We’ve just to keep working, get our timing down and protect him better.”
Loudon now turns its attention to cross-county rival Lenoir City High School. The Panthers fell 21-7 to the Heritage High School Mountaineers on Friday.
“Yeah it’s a win, but I’m just going to focus on Lenoir City now,” Lunsford said. “I hope my teammates do the same.”
The Cherokees will host Meigs County High School on Friday and will look to avenge last season’s 27-20 loss to the Tigers.
“The bottom line is the film’s going to help us more than anything else, probably more than practice,” Ryan said. “It’s the same for both teams, but when you don’t get a chance to scrimmage and make mistakes in that scrimmage and correct those mistakes, then you make them the first game. Unfortunately, we made too many tonight. The film will help us, we’ll get ready and, hopefully, we’ll get better next week and put a better performance together.”