After having a week off, the Loudon High School Redskins faced the first true Region 3-3A road test of the season Friday against the Sweetwater High School Wildcats.
Both teams battled chilly conditions and tested physical strength in the trenches, but the Redskins proved too much en route to a 28-7 win to improve to 8-0 on the year.
“You’ve got to give credit to Sweetwater because I thought they prepared, I thought they played very physical and they had enough athletes to put pressure on us and make plays,” Jeff Harig, LHS head football coach, said. “They made some plays tonight with some 50-50 balls, we gave up some big pass plays and so at this time of the year there are no secrets. (Mike Martin, SHS head football coach) has watched every game we’ve played this year and had a plan to take advantage of our weaknesses and what we do. I think the most disappointing thing I have is the lack of physicality because I thought they were more physical than us.”
The Wildcats struck first with 2:47 remaining in the first quarter when senior quarterback Austin Long scrambled and delivered an 11-yard touchdown pass to Kaleb Johnkins on fourth down to lead 7-0.
The Redskins answered two minutes later with a 20-yard touchdown pass from Keaton Harig to McKenzie Lunsford to tie the game at 7-7 heading into the second quarter.
Sweetwater’s front seven and a mixture of penalties thwarted Loudon’s high-octane offense in the first half, but the Redskins managed to score again before halftime on a 4-yard scamper by Lunsford to lead 14-7 at the break.
“We had the chance early to hit a big one, and Keaton kind of short-armed it a little bit and McKenzie had to catch it and fall down when he was wide open for a touchdown,” Jeff said. “After that, they gave us some wrinkles that we didn’t have a plan for. Once we settled into our inside zone right at the beginning of the second quarter, we got control of it. That first quarter we were feeling it out and to play bad and it only be 7-7, plus to my knowledge I don’t think we turned it over. In the midst of playing bad, you didn’t beat yourself and it was still up to Sweetwater to beat us.”
The Wildcats leaned heavily on senior power back Bryce Johnson in the second half, but the Redskins’ defense was able to limit him to 3.7 yards per carry.
“He’s just a very aggressive player and is very good,” Haden Houser, LHS senior linebacker, said. “Once he gets a couple of yards, he just runs really hard and it’s hard to get him taken down.”
Lunsford added a second touchdown of the night midway through the third quarter after plowing his way into the end zone from the 1-yard line to extend the Redskins’ lead to 21-7.
Loudon’s offense responded again and scored the final touchdown of the night with less than nine minutes remaining in the game when senior Donte Brown bulldozed his way in from five yards out to go up 28-7.
Sweetwater attempted to turn to the passing attack late in the fourth quarter, but two sacks by Houser for a combined 18 yards crushed the Wildcats’ hopes of pulling the comeback.
“We started off really slow,” Houser said. “Austin Long, he did a really good job of escaping the pocket. We just eventually kept giving him a lot of pressure, and eventually it was just too much for him to handle every time. It’s pretty big because we’re 21-1 in the past two years, so we’re just trying to keep our heads up and rolling along.”
Loudon will return home Friday for a big non-region matchup against Region 4-5A foe Walker Valley High School.