Getting back on the gridiron

The Louisa Lions’ football team is getting down to business. The team took the field for their first practice of the season on Aug. 1.

“The guys have been working really hard in the off-season, but it’s official now, so let’s get it going,” Lions’ Head Coach Will Patrick said.

The Lions have lost several key players to graduation, including starting quarterback Robert Allinder and Penn State linebacker Brandon Smith, but have what Patrick describes as “a good nucleus” of players returning. Among them are senior running back Jarett Hunter, who tallied more than 1,500 rushing yards for the Lions last season.

“A lot of guys are stepping up in roles they haven’t had before,” Hunter said. “Some have never heard of the roles they have to step into, so they have to watch film from the guy from last year and be coachable and step up and play the role.”

Linebacker Aaron Aponte, another returning senior, said that the new players have the same drive as the returning players.

“We’re all equal,” he said. “We put in the same amount of work and we’re able to push each other to be the best that we can be.”

This season in particular, the players have a drive to put forth their best effort in hopes of making up for how the 2018 season ended. A last-second touchdown in the Virginia High School League Region 4B semifinal game gave Eastern View a 19-14 victory and eliminated the Lions’ hopes for another shot at the state title.

“It gives us a chip on our shoulder,” Hunter said. “We can’t be in the same situation like that where the game’s that close and one play can make a difference. We have to come out and punch them in the mouth early and get games over with. We have the skill and ability to do it.”

While the players are using that loss as a motivation, Patrick is choosing not to dwell on it.

“You have to forget about the last play and focus on the next play,” he said.

Most of the teams the Lions will play this season are familiar, but there are two new teams on the schedule. In place of King George in week three, the Lions will host Region 6B powerhouse Massaponax, who ended the 2018 season with an 11-2 record. Also new to the schedule this year is Region 4C team Kettle Run, who will break up Louisa’s Jefferson District series in October.

The Lions kick off their season on Aug. 30, taking on the Courtland Cougars in the annual Big Cat Classic. This year’s game will be at Courtland, beginning at 7 p.m.