It is often said those who seek revenge do so at the peril of feeling something is owed them.
And that is neither the Chris Brown nor the Red Bank way because if this crazy 2020 prep football season has taught them anything, it is that they are owed nothing. Instead, when opportunity presents itself, be prepared to earn it.
Still, it would be hard to ignore the obvious.
Loudon handed Red Bank its only two losses last year, including a season-ending defeat in the state quarterfinals. The Lions finished a returning of the favor Friday night at Tom Weathers Field, handing the Redskins their second loss of the year – both at the hands of Red Bank – with a 24-14 triumph to advance to the TSSAA 3A state semifinals.
Red Bank (10-0) will host perennial power Alcoa (12-1) for a shot to play in the 3A state championship in two weeks. Alcoa put a 49-13 thumping on Gatlinburg-Pittman Friday and has shut out seven opponents this season, its lone loss coming at the hands of 6A Maryville.
“We are all aware of our school’s history and this bunch only had one goal in mind tonight, and that was to become the fourth team in school history to make it the semifinals. Tonight wasn’t about revenge, and we didn’t talk about any such thing. It was about winning a game to move on to the next one, and it came down to a lot of great individual efforts to get that done,” said Brown, who won his 31st game against only three losses since taking the Lion reins three years ago.
Perhaps the finest of the individual efforts came courtesy of Lumiere Strickland, who twice provided lightening with a pair of TD strikes in the third period, both things of beauty and both demoralizing blows to a Redskins team that had hung tight to that point.
Strickland wound up with 246 total yards, gashing Loudon for 162 yards on 18 rushing attempts and catching a screen pass and taking it 84 yards to the house to put the game away.
Leading 10-7 at the half, Red Bank got the ball to open the second half and Strickland broke free on the third play of the half for a 74-yard score straight up the middle to make it 17-7. Loudon moved it 58 yards methodically down the field on its next possession before Red Bank’s talented defensive end Cam Bell had had enough. Loudon had it first down at the 18 before Bell got a sack on second-and-2, made a stop for loss on third down, and stuffed a quarterback keeper on fourth down to end the promising drive.
“It was all about the grind. That’s what we do. We are going to grind and execute our assignments, and make you earn everything,” said Bell, who was one of several standout Lion defenders on the night.
Strickland then whipped out his second dagger of the evening. After a penalty and two plays left the Lions with a third-and-12, Strickland reeled in a middle screen from Joseph Blackmon and went untouched for the 84-yard score. Red Bank had ran six plays in the quarter and scored twice for what proved to be an insurmountable lead at 24-7 with a quarter to go.
“All I saw was open space. A lot of green in front of me and green means go. We haven’t played our best yet, but we are getting there,” said Strickland, who runs with an almost air hockey-like glide to his style.
“He has an elite level of vision for this level of play, and both of those plays were backbreakers,” said Brown of his running back.
Red Bank started the game slow, and hurt itself with penalties, 14 flags for 143 yards, but for the most part had the game in control thanks in large part to another stellar effort slowing down Loudon’s talented quarterback Keaton Harig.
Harig was harassed all night by what he termed a “Division-I defensive line” and had 47 rushing yards on 19 carries. The Redskins were basically a two-man squad on offense with Harig and McKenize Lunsford getting 128 of Loudon’s 172 total yards. The potent Loudon offense averaged better than 40 points a game against everyone, but managed just 14 points total in the two games versus Red Bank.
“I would say the biggest difference in this year and last year was the physicality of Red Bank’s line on defense. They just have more athletes than we do, but up front, they make it tough on you,” said Loudon coach Jeff Harig.
Red Bank wound up with 346 total yards, and won by making the big plays. Josh Blackmon blocked a field goal on Loudon’s first drive and Red Bank’s Jake Wright was good on his kick from 34 yards to give the Lions the early 3-0 lead. Joseph Blackmon made it 10-0 in the second period with a 29-yard quarterback draw before the Redskins finally got into the end zone with 21 seconds remaining in the half. Lunsford scored on a one-yard run to break the ice.
Strickland’s strikes in the third period got rid of any suspense, however, and made Loudon’s final score with 33 seconds left in the game meaningless.
Jordan High had a big game along with Bell as bookends on the defensive line, while Kel Eddins had an interception as well.
LOUDON 0 7 0 7 – 14
RED BANK 0 10 14 0 – 24
RB – Jake Wright 34 field goal (9:48, 2nd)
RB – Joseph Blackmon 29 run (Jake Wright kick) (4:53, 2nd)
LO – McKenzie Lunsford 1 run (Cherinet Freezell kick) (0:21, 2nd)
RB – Lumiere Strickland 74 run (Jake Wright kick) (10:28, 3rd)
RB – Lumiere Strickland 84 pass from Joseph Blackmon (Jake Wright kick) (0:04, 3rd)
LO – Justin Farmer 13 pass from Keaton Harig (Cherinet Freezell kick) (0:33, 4th)
LO STATS RB
15 1st Downs `10
33-94 Rush 33-223
78 Pass 123
172 Total 229
12-7-1 Passes 3-7-1
5-30 Penalties 14-153
4-25.8 Punts 2-32.0
1-0 Fumbles 1-0
Rushing: Keaton Harig 19-47, McKenzie Lunsford 14-47 (L); Lumiere Strickland 18-162, A.D. Crutcher 18-45, Joseph Blackmon 7-13 (RB).
Passing: Keaton Harig 12-17-1 78 yards (L); Joseph Blackmon 3-7-1 123 yards (RB).
Receiving: McKenzie Lunsford 6-34, Justin Farmer 3-24, Jackson Williams 2-12, Eli Milsaps 1-11 (L); Lumiere Strickland 1-84, Kel Eddins 2-39 (RB).
Records: Red Bank (10-0); Loudon (10-2).
Up Next: Alcoa (12-1) at Red Bank, 3A State Semifinals, Friday, November 27, 2020.
(Contact James Beach via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter @beachnut1134)