Loudon secures region championship

Loudon Quarterback Keaton Harig attempts a run Friday against Kingston.

Loudon High School football won 28-7 Friday against the Kingston Yellow Jackets of Roane County High School to clinch the region championship.

Both teams had a perfect 4-0 region record going into the final game of the season. The win ensured the Redskins would begin their playoff campaign at home.

Jeff Harig, LHS head football coach, said it was an important result against a tough opponent.

“I’m just really proud of our players,” Harig said. “I’ve got a lot of respect for Kingston and their coaches and it was a big win for us. I thought it was a good team effort. We had guys step up tonight, so it wasn’t one guy, it was a total team effort.”

The opening period was a tight affair, as neither team gave ground in the first quarter. Loudon came closest with a missed field goal attempt.

But the game came alive in the second quarter.

After Loudon stuffed three rushing plays, Kingston took a risk and called a passing play on fourth down. Loudon junior linebacker Dillon Handshey was there to intercept, however, and suddenly the Redskins had the ball on Kingston’s 35-yard line.

The interception proved crucial since Loudon drove down the field for the game’s first touchdown. Several gains on the way to the score were made when senior quarterback Keaton Harig ran the ball, and he was the one to score the touchdown.

“They adjusted defenses to try and stop our passing game, so we just took advantage of that,” Keaton said. “We just ran quarterback lead stuff and they couldn’t stop it.”

The Redskins converted the extra point to lead 7-0 with 6:35 on the clock.

The scoring was not finished. Loudon’s defense again forced the Yellow Jackets into a passing game, leading to another interception. This time, junior wide-receiver Semy Turner snagged the ball, setting up a return to Kingston’s 20-yard line.

Before the game, Jeff had identified Kington’s running game as the biggest threat. When the defense forced passes, he knew they could take advantage.

“That’s not their forte, that’s not their game,” Jeff said. “Once we made them one dimensional on the passing game, I felt like that was to our advantage. And that definitely proved true tonight.”

Two penalties on the next two plays — one against each team — saw the ball move back between the 47-yard line and the 18-yard line before the Redskins got their second score of the night. Keaton connected with Turner from the 5-yard line, and another conversion made it 14-0 with 2:14 to go.

Kingston improved in the second half, as its best run of the night got them to first-and-goal. But after the Redskins successfully halted their next three plays, Kingston had a decision. Given the score, they knew they could not afford to play it safe and went for a touchdown on fourth down.

Although the play looked good when the quarterback found an open player in the end zone, a drop kept the Yellow Jackets scoreless.

Starting just outside their end zone, the Redskins immediately went with a 54-yard pass for senior tight end Josh Gonzalez. On Kingston’s 39-yard line, Loudon had small gains on their first three downs to set up a fourth-and-three.

Rather than punt, Keaton found sophomore wide receiver Jackson Collins, completing a 33-yard score for the third touchdown of the night. With another successful conversion, Loudon went up 21-0 with 4:50 remaining in the third quarter.

Going so quickly from an incomplete pass in the end zone to conceding at their end was a major setback for Kingston. Still unable to implement their running game, their quarterback threw a pass from his 20-yard line, which found a player free to run half the field for the team’s first touchdown of the night. The ensuing kick was good, making it 21-7 with 3:51 to go.

Loudon used the running game in the fourth quarter to keep the clock running.

Sophomore running back Gavin Devine and Keaton both had several strong runs to get the Redskins to the 12-yard line. Keaton found Turner for a strike and a fourth touchdown, Turner’s second of the night.

“That was crazy” Turner said of getting two touchdowns in such a game. “That got my heart pumping, I was going crazy.”

The Redskins converted the kick to restore a 21-point lead with 7:56 to go.

With their perfect region record, Loudon became the No. 1 seed for the upcoming playoffs.

“We got home field advantage, we’re region champs,” Jeff said. “When we set out this year to set goals and be the team we wanted to be, this is the moment we wanted. We’re right where we wanted to be and now we just got to go out and see how far we can take this thing.”

Loudon will begin the 2021 playoff run by hosting Grundy County at 7 p.m. Friday.