With a 35-0 triumph in game one, the new ‘Will Patrick Era’ of Louisa County football might be due for a branding adjustment.
Sure, the defense lived up to the offseason hype, pitching a shutout at out-of-district neighbor Courtland. And yes, 11 different players carried the ball on offense, racking up 297 yards by the end of the night. But 93 of them came on three late fourth quarter-carries with the outcome already decided. Instead, it was a senior making his Louisa debut who effectively silenced the Cougars’ Den, and probably turned many heads in the visitors’ stands, over the season’s first 38 minutes of action.
“I didn’t know that we’d air it out that much,” said Rob Allinder, the Lions’ new quarterback, who finished an efficient 11-of-14 for 143 yards with three scoring strikes and no interceptions. “Three touchdowns is a lot for any quarterback. I knew I had an arm that can get the ball there. Whatever works, we’re trying to do.”
A possibly-relevant fact: Patrick, himself a 2002 Louisa County alum, played quarterback for the Lions.
“We’re still going to run the ball, run first, but I think [Rob] adds a different dimension,” said Patrick. “He transferred [to Louisa from Florida] last year but wasn’t able to play. All off-season he’s been grinding and working with our receivers. He takes control of the offense.”
Among the sideline spectators for the season opener was retired coach Mark Fischer. He joined the squad for their postgame huddle and congratulated the 2018 Lions for blanking the Cougars, something he never saw happen during his tenure. He also presented the game ball to the justifiably-pumped new coach.
“That was a special moment for me,” said Patrick, who was promoted from offensive coordinator on Fischer’s staff to head coach in January. “I’ve probably spent more time with him the past four years than anybody else. I know what he goes through every day. Honestly, getting that first one is huge. I’ve got a chip—no, a crack on my shoulder and a lot to prove. I couldn’t have asked for much more from my team tonight.”
Of course, as well as game one went for Patrick and the Lions, the tape will show a few opportunities for improvement before Chancellor (0-1) rolls into the Jungle next Friday. Two first half fumbles by the offense inside the Courtland 30 potentially cut the halftime margin in half. Two fifteen-yard facemask penalties by the defense gave the Cougars first downs that were otherwise few and far between.
Indeed, a glance at the first half drive charts and team yardage would be hard to square with the 14-0 margin on the scoreboard. Louisa received the opening kickoff and drove 49 yards in eight plays (all runs) before Allinder was stopped in the backfield on fourth-and-two. After a quick series by the defense, the Lions were back at their own 41 and moved 28 yards in three plays before sophomore tailback Kalup Shelton coughed up a fumble. Defense and special teams proved an effective eraser as a three-and-out and 13-yard punt followed. The Lions finally got on the board with their ensuing six-play, 35-yard drive, which stretched into the second quarter. Allinder hit junior tight end Alex Washington over the middle, who broke a couple of tackles before diving across the goal line for a 16-yard touchdown.
The defense delivered another three-and-out, and the offense embarked on another lengthy five-and-a-half minute drive. After marching 58 yards in ten plays, a holding penalty setup first-and-goal at the 17, and then came a sack-fumble. Courtland subsequently picked up two first downs via plays from scrimmage for the only time in the half, but the Lions held on downs once they crossed midfield. Then, rather than run out the last 38 seconds of the half, Patrick turned his new quarterback loose. Allinder accounted for all 60 yards on the drive, including a 7-yard scramble on third-and-3. He hit senior receiver Mark Carter streaking down the Louisa sideline for a 26-yard gain. Then, with the clocking ticking down under eight seconds before the next snap, he connected with junior Noah Robinson for a 20-yard touchdown as time expired.
“Well the safeties were playing cover-two and I saw the middle linebacker come up, so I knew I had a hole right there,” Allinder said. “I put it on him and he made a great catch. I knew he had hands.”
His coach knew what a big moment it was too.
“I got on his butt there when he fumbled going in [earlier] in the second quarter,” said Patrick. “I thought we could’ve had another one, but he bounced back. He threw a great dime there to Noah. That’s was a big momo getter – we had Uncle Mo going into halftime.”
The squads exchanged punts to start the third quarter. From his role as linebacker in pass coverage, Alex Washington made the first big play of the half with an interception of Courtland quarterback Shyheem Lewis’s deep ball at the Lions’ 35. The offense then marched 80 yards, overcoming two personal foul penalties and a fortuitous fumble that bounced to Washington and ended up as an 11-yard gain. Shelton atoned for his earlier turnover with a 3-yard touchdown run on the drive’s twelfth play to make it 21-0.
Courtland showed signs of desperation on its ensuing series, opting to go for it on fourth-and-10 from its own 36. Lewis’s deep pass fell incomplete. Allinder made them pay with his third passing touchdown, this one going for 23 yards to Carter. After a Mark Fischer-style short squib kickoff, Courtland started at its 49 and mounted its best drive of the night. The Cougars reached Louisa’s six, but Lewis was swarmed in the backfield for a loss on fourth-and-4.
“I thought our defense was going to be good,” Patrick said. “We’re very young – we have three seniors starting. One of ‘em is real special, everyone knows him (Brandon Smith); but we’ve got some juniors who can play football, too. I thought they flew around. Courtland comes with that Wing-T misdirection, and they studied the film, listened in practice, and we had great effort to the ball all night.”
With the shutout preserved and cramps increasingly taking their toll on the Courtland side, Shelton promptly broke loose for a 64-yard gain. Teddy Hunter picked up 24 more before Tre’von Perkins wrapped up the scoring with a 5-yard run.
“One of our best players on offense was out this game, Jarrett Hunter, hopefully we get him back next week,” Patrick said. “I thought Rob really stepped up. I thought our sophomore running back (Shelton) really stepped up, too.”
Shelton finished with a game-high 163 yards on just 11 carries. Lewis led Courtland with 35 yards rushing on six attempts. Zin White was bottled up all night, managing just 27 yards on 19 rushes. The Cougars were missing a couple of their usual weapons from their offensive set.”
“They’ve got four ballers back there and they still had two,” Patrick said. “I told Coach Hall, how our region falls, we’ll probably see them again [in the playoffs].”
Courtland (0-1) coach JC Hall declined to comment after the game.