Loudon High School secured a playoff spot Friday with a crucial 23-14 win over the visiting Roane County High School in Kingston Yellow Jackets.
Going into the final week of regular season, the Redskins could have finished anywhere from No. 2 seed to missing the playoffs, depending on their result and Region 3-3A’s two other matchups. After Brainerd High School defeated Signal Mountain High School on Thursday, the options narrowed and a win became a must to extend the season.
“It just made this game that much more important, but we knew we needed to win this game anyway,” Will Ervin, junior quarterback, said.
Kingston came into the game in a similar situation, and the Yellow Jackets had the upper hand early on. After holding the Redskins to six plays on the first possession, the visitors drove 57 yards for the opening touchdown.
Loudon struggled to deal with a heavy run game led by Kingston’s quarterback, who finished the drive off with a five-yard touchdown run with just under half the quarter remaining.
The Redskins looked to even the score but could not get to the end zone before time elapsed on the first quarter. However, Loudon started the second on Kingston’s 12-yard line and turned the game on its head moments later.
Ervin found senior wide receiver Semy Turner for a touchdown on the first play of the second quarter to level the score, and Loudon’s defense held the visitors to a three-and-out immediately afterward.
Senior linebacker Dillon Handshey then blocked the punt, and senior wide receiver Braeden Fray recovered it around the 25-yard line to run home and give the Redskins the advantage just over two minutes into the quarter.
“I thought the momentum part of that was huge,” Jeff Harig, LHS head football coach, said. “It made our guys believe and we kind of rode that momentum to the halftime there.”
Kingston came close to retaliating two minutes from the break, but were held on Loudon’s 17-yard line and their 34-yard field goal sailed wide left of the uprights.
The Yellow Jackets got the ball back to start the second half and made it count, putting together a six-minute, 13-play, 79-yard drive that resulted in a second quarterback touchdown, this time from the one-yard line. Because Loudon senior kicker Julio Flores had missed his second attempt in the previous quarter, the converted kick restored Kingston’s lead by a single point at 14-13.
Loudon did not take long to respond.
The Redskins started on their 25-yard line and gained just five yards on their first two plays, but then pulled Ervin in favor of sophomore running back Sebastian Correa. Correa received the snap and carried the ball 66 yards before being tripped on Kingston’s four-yard line.
“Bronson (Scrivner, sophomore starting quarterback) was hurt, and we didn’t know early in the week if we were going to have him as a running quarterback,” Harig said. “So when we put Will in at quarterback I knew we needed to come up with something else because they were going to play us man-to-man coverage with an extra guy in the box. So Sebastian has been running back for us but we used him some in the wildcat at quarterback this week and he did a good job with it.”
Ervin returned to the field for the next play as junior running back Gavin Divine punched it in to restore Loudon’s lead less than two minutes after losing it.
“I think it just bounced momentum back and really just amped us up a little to give us strength to finish the game,” Correa said.
Loudon used momentum to force another three-and-out, and, like in the first half, ended the quarter in the Kingston red zone.
Correa thought he had a touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter, but his nine-yard rush was pulled back for holding. The Redskins could not do it a second time and ended up opting for a field goal after finding themselves at fourth-and-five on Kingston’s 10.
Flores made amends for his previous missed kick with a 27-yard field goal to give Loudon some breathing room with 11:13 still to go in the game.
The Redskins defense stood strong for another three-and-out, and Handshey blocked his second punt of the night, but canceling penalties gave the Yellow Jackets a do-over. The second punt made it to Loudon’s three-yard line before Turner returned it to the 42.
With nine minutes left in the game, Loudon put Correa in as quarterback again to keep the ball on the ground and run the clock. The Redskins took seven minutes before finally giving possession back with a turnover on downs in the red zone and forced a third successive three-and-out moments later to regain the ball and put an end to the contest.
“What people won’t know is that was the first time we’ve seen Kingston in any of that stuff they were in, so we had to adjust the entire game and I thought our guys did a good job,” Harig said. “We never gave up that big play for a touchdown. They had to drive and earn everything they got, and the clock became in our favor at that point.”
Loudon’s win guaranteed a spot in the playoffs, but the Redskins had to wait on the matchup between Sweetwater and McMinn Central high schools, which had started 30 minutes later, to conclude before knowing whether that game would be at home or on the road. Sweetwater eventually won 24-17 to secure a No. 2 seed and home advantage for Loudon based on their head-to-head record against McMinn Central.
The Redskins will host Cannon County High School, who they defeated in the second round of the playoffs last season, at 7 p.m. Friday.
“Glad to be able top play one more game at home,” Harig said. “Cannon County came in last year and had a good game plan, so look forward to hosting them.”