Three minutes into Louisa’s homecoming game versus arch rival Orange on Friday, Oct. 25, a victory seemed anything but imminent. Orange linebacker Trevon Smith had just scored on a 66-yard fumble return, the home crowd had fallen silent and quarterback Trey Cherry sat dejected near the midfield line.
A picture of the moment would have seemingly summarized the feelings of the Louisa Lions faithful up to that point of the season.
Just three hours later, the Lions had taken over the canvas and painted an entirely new picture.
Using a three-headed running attack spearheaded by Cherry, Louisa literally ran away from the Fighting Hornets, winning 42-28.
It was a ground game attack of epic proportions. Three members of the Louisa backfield finished with more than 100 yards rushing. Deion Johnson finished with 105 yards, Idris Davis finished with 135 and Cherry led the way with 259 yards.
It was the execution of a revised gameplan brainstormed by Louisa head coach Jon Meeks.
“Before the game, coach brought us into his office and said, “It’s your time to shine,’” Cherry said. “He said whoever showed off would get the most carries, so we just went out there and gave it our all.”
The catalyst of Louisa’s offensive success involved shifting sophomore Malik Johnson from left guard to right tackle alongside the team’s 321-pound right guard, Noah Verling. The duo created a burly wall of blocking that protected each member of Louisa’s revolving door of a backfield.
“They did very well,” Cherry said. “They stayed on their blocks and drove people. I wasn’t getting touched until eight to 10 yards downfield. If that happens, we’re going to win.”
“The whole mindset for us was smashmouth football,” Meeks said. “We wanted to stop beating ourselves. Our goal was that, if everything goes wrong on a play, we get zero yards. We aren’t built to face third-and-18 situations. We hoped to pop a couple, and we did.”
The Lions desperately needed a few runs to pop open after their fumble on the opening drive. Louisa responded swiftly on their second possession with a six-play, 81-yard drive to knot the score at seven halfway through the first quarter.
It was the response that Meeks knew his team had in them, and one that they desperately needed emotionally.
“I was proud of the guys for bouncing back and scoring on that next possession,” Meeks said. “I felt good because that first drive we were popping five to eight yards a carry. I felt that if we could stop hurting ourselves, we’d be okay.”
Instead, it was Orange who was hurting themselves after Louisa’s opening blunder. The Lions capitalized on three first-half turnovers by the Fighting Hornets to take a 28-21 lead into halftime.
The teams traded blows after halftime, with Orange tying the game at 28 after a botched snap by Louisa led to a blocked punt. It was one of three Louisa turnovers in the game, a trend that has Meeks alarmed.
To read the entire story, see the Oct. 31 edition of The Central Virginian.