In a region showdown between two undefeated teams, Loudon used big plays and a stingy defense to defeat host Red Bank 24-7 on Friday and win the 3-3A title heading into the playoffs.
Redskins running back Drew Jackson finished with 124 yards rushing and 123 receiving, and his two fourth-quarter touchdowns sealed the win for Loudon, which finished the regular season 10-0 overall and 5-0 in the region.
"We ended up executing a little better in the second half, and our kids made plays and hung in there," Loudon coach Jeff Harig said. "I think we adjusted to the speed of the game, and we calmed down and started running the ball. You could see our confidence grow the more that second half wore on."
In the first half, the Lions (8-1, 4-1) held the potent Loudon offense in check and took the lead late in the first quarter on an 8-yard run by Lumiere Strickland. The Redskins had some success running the ball in the first two quarters, but they were held to just 5 yards through the air and only managed to score on Mark Ridenour's 30-yard field goal in the second quarter, allowing Red Bank to head to halftime with a 7-3 lead.
The Loudon offense came to life in the second half, with big passing plays from quarterback Keaton Harig to Jackson setting up good running lanes for Jackson and Mckenzie Landorf.
"I think they held their focus better than we did, and they executed what they do well better than we did," Red Bank coach Chris Brown said. "We learned a lot about ourselves and some things we had better get cleaned up."
The Redskins took the lead in the third quarter on a 19-yard pass from Harig to Ridenour, and the Lions looked like they were ready to answer on a long run by Alrigo Trimble that would have put them inside the Loudon 20. But the play was called back on offsetting penalties.
The Lions continued the drive but stalled and missed a 34-yard field-goal attempt on the first play of the fourth quarter. Harig connected with Jackson for an 80-yard touchdown pass on the next play, and Jackson added another score on a 14-yard run with 8:48 to play. From there Loudon's defense and running game took over to seal the win.
"There's no doubt about it that they wanted it," said Red Bank quarterback Madox Wilkey, who was 14-for-26 passing for 133 yards. "We had a lot of penalties and we had some big plays called back on penalties, so we killed ourselves.
"This is kind of a wake-up call, so we have to come together and fix some things and go after it."
The Lions will now look to begin postseason play by rebounding from their first loss of the season, and Long will be looking to correct the problems he saw Friday night.
"We have to remind our guys of our base rules and the things we have to do better," he said. "Give Loudon the credit that they deserve. They went out and won a region championship tonight."