Loudon County football teams are priming for a stretch of region games to close out the second half of the 10-game regular season.
The Greenback School Cherokees will have a week off before heading into a final stretch of four region games to close out the regular season.
The Loudon High School Redskins will play region games the next two weeks and in three of the four final games of the regular season. The team has a bye week in mid-October.
Meanwhile, the Lenoir City High School Panthers already had an unexpected week off due to COVID-19 in early September and they head into a final stretch of five games, with three of those region matchups.
Panthers ready for KarnsLenoir City scheduled a home game Friday, which had been its scheduled week off, because the Robbinsville (N.C.) Black Knights were available and because the Panthers had already had a week off Sept. 3 due to COVID-19.
The Panthers (1-4, 0-1 Region 3-5A) lost to the Black Knights 35-19.
“We came up a little short on that one,” Jeff Cortez, LCHS head football coach, said.
Cortez said Robbinsville is a 1A power in North Carolina and played “like advertised, very composed.”
The Black Knights “stuck to their game plan, running the ball, playing good defense ... a composed, veteran program,” he said.
LCHS started well on offense and scored on their first two drives. The Panthers had two turnovers on interceptions in the second quarter, which put the team behind, Cortez said.
Interceptions created a short field for Robbinsville, and the Black Knights capitalized with 21 unanswered points in the second quarter.
“I thought we played really hard, we played really well,” Cortez said of his team’s defense.
But the Panthers wore down a bit in the fourth quarter, gave up a few passes and sold out trying to stop the run, Cortez said.
Junior inside linebacker Dalton Dukes recorded double-digit tackles and had a few tackles for loss, junior defensive lineman Egan Rains played “real solid” against the run, had multiple tackles and forced a fumble, and senior outside linebacker Aiden Bennett played the off-tackle run really well, Cortez said.
“He had a 70-yard scoop-and-score off a fumble, which was a big play for us,” Cortez said.
The Panthers will play their second region game of the year Friday at Karns (4-2, 1-1 Region 3-5A).
“This is a big game for us in terms of playoff implications,” Cortez said.
He said the Beavers have a dynamic running back in junior DeSean Bishop, who is averaging 40 carries and 300 rushing yards per game and has accumulated 1,800 yards after six games.
Cortez emphasized LCHS will need a balanced attack of running and passing and the Panthers must take advantage of the looks offered by Karns, run the ball and mix in the passing game.
Greenback on a bye
Greenback (2-3, 2-0 Region 2-1A) lost 34-12 at home Friday to Loudon (6-0, 2-0 Region 3-3A).
Ethan Edmiston, Greenback head football coach, believes his team had a good week of practice, came ready to play and gave a good effort all four quarters.
However, the Cherokees turned over the ball twice on fumbles.
“That really hurt us, especially right before halftime,” Edmiston said. “Giving up that touchdown right before halftime was a big momentum shift for them.”
The Redskins were able to score two touchdowns on fourth-down plays, Edmiston said.
Senior quarterback Micah Franklin rushed for 95 yards on 20 carries and threw a touchdown pass.
“He really ran the offense well,” Edmiston said.
He said the Cherokees’ defensive line did a good job of forcing Loudon senior quarterback Keaton Harig out of the pocket. The defensive line played well and were able to get to the quarterback four times, Edmiston said.
Scoring for the Cherokees were sophomore Caden Lawson, who ran in a touchdown, and Folsom Silver, who caught a touchdown pass.
After a week off, Greenback will play at Coalfield (4-2, 2-0 Region 2-1A) on Oct. 8, its third region game of the year. The Yellow Jackets are a good team and likely top in the region, Edmiston said.
“We’ve got to have a good two weeks (of practice),” he said.
The Cherokees need stops on big plays and they can’t turn the ball over on offense, Edmiston said.
“We also have to finish drives,” he said.
Greenback had a few good drives against Loudon that didn’t result in points. One was 95 yards, but the Cherokees turned over the ball on fourth down in the red zone, Edmiston said.
He emphasized the defense needs to stop teams from converting on fourth down and the offense needs to keep moving and score when opportunities arise.
Redskins gear up
After a 34-12 victory over in-county team Greenback, Loudon will be at home Friday against regional opponent Brainerd High School (2-4, Region 0-2).
Jeff Harig, LHS head football coach, could not be reached for comment by News-Herald presstime.