After two exciting weeks of the 2020 high school football playoffs, only one Loudon County team remains standing heading into the quarterfinals Friday.
The Loudon High School Redskins (10-1) are coming off a big 41-16 road win against the Upperman High School Bees in the second round of the Class 3A playoffs.
“I think we’re right where we want to be,” Jeff Harig, LHS head football coach, said. “I hate to say it’s been a long year because we never knew if we’d be able to get through this length of football, but minus a lot of the offseason time, I think our guys’ minds are fresh, their bodies are ready for the rigors of this time of year. I think we’ve done a good job of managing the loads that are on these guys because we’ve tried to minimize the amount of plays they get, and all of it’s been to get us to this point. I think we’ve gotten here as healthy as possible.”
For a second consecutive year, the Redskins will take on the Red Bank High School Lions in a quarterfinal matchup that could define the season.
In an Oct. 30 meeting of the teams, the Lions escaped with a 13-0 win to clinch the Region 3-3A championship and the No. 1 seed.
“We have confidence that we can play well against them, but playing well and beating them are two different things,” Harig said. “I think we are optimistic and we know what it takes to succeed against them, but it’s just a matter of going out there and doing it. I think being at full staff will help us and we’ll have everybody available. I think our guys gained a lot of confidence from playing that first time, and even though we didn’t win, we played at a different level. I thought that level that we played with carried over into Friday night and that was a pretty dominant performance.”
The Lions defeated Grundy County and Brainerd in the first two rounds by a combined score of 81-18. Red Bank boasts one of the best offenses in Class 3A led by dual-threat quarterback Joseph Blackmon and All-Region athletes Lumiere Strickland and Kel Eddins.
Loudon’s defense held Red Bank to its lowest output of 13 points and will look for an identical performance again Friday.
The Lions will be without All-State athlete Reco Trimble who suffered a season-ending injury in the previous meeting against Loudon.
“They have really fast receivers, so we’ll need to kind of play back a little bit,” Haden Houser, LHS senior linebacker, said. “We’ve got to stop the big run because they’re really fast. We’ve just got to take better angles, that’s the big part. They can get up there real fast.”
Junior quarterback Keaton Harig is hungry for another shot to spoil the Lions’ season.
“We’ve got some unfinished business because we weren’t very healthy,” Keaton said. “I still think the outcome should’ve been different. With everybody being fully healthy and having everybody back from COVID, hopefully we can just go in and execute.”
The coaching staff believes getting off to a quick start could determine the outcome.
The Redskins scored two touchdowns in the first five minutes against Upperman, which Jeff believes took the wind out of the Bees.
“As any big game is, getting off to a quick start will be key for us,” Jeff said. “I think our guys, we played the best football of the second half against Red Bank even though we were down 13-0. I think mentally, we are where we need to be and it’s just a matter of going out and doing it. The speed of the game is different and it will take a few minutes to get adjusted, but the fact that we made that adjustment and know what it takes, I think that benefits us. With that said, we’ve still got to find points. I think the first four or five minutes of that game will be huge.”
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. Friday at Red Bank High School. Attendance will be limited, and tickets can be purchased online at https://www.tssaasports.com/sports/football/playoffs/.