Lions roar into football playoffs

Jordan Smith tries to break away from a Goochland tackle during the Lions’ regular season finale on Nov. 5.

 

The Louisa Lions closed out their regular season with a 31-10 win over the Goochland Bulldogs, giving them an 8-2 record heading into the Region 4D playoffs this week.

The opening quarter was a back-and-forth struggle between the defenses, Louisa holding the Bulldogs to only one first down throughout the period. Jaylen Beach cut the Bulldogs’ opening drive short with an interception on the second play, but the Lions were unable to capitalize. The Lions had no luck on either of their next two possessions, but managed to get on the board in the second quarter thanks to their defense.

After stalling deep in their own territory, the Bulldogs lined up to punt the ball away on fourth down. The snap was high, sailing over punter Tyler Black’s head and into the end zone. Black scooped it up, but Louisa defenders Jacob Bundrick and Elijah Brooks were right on top of him, bringing him down in the end zone for a two-point safety conversion with 8:47 left in the half.

“When I saw it go over his head, I saw red like a bull and I ran as fast as I could,” Brooks said. “The excitement of knowing we’d scored some points on defense was amazing.”

The Lions wasted no time building on the momentum of those points, getting the ball back on Goochland’s 42-yard line. Wilson connected with Stephen Dean for 10 yards, then later found Jordan Smith through the air for an additional 16 to get the ball to the 15. The junior quarterback carried the ball the rest of the way, covering the distance in two plays and scoring on a two-yard run. Caden Lundy booted the extra point and the Lions now led 9-0 with 5:31 left on the clock.

The Bulldogs struck back on their next drive, starting with Aidan Allen returning the kickoff to Louisa’s 32-yard line. Over the next few plays they moved down to the 19, then quarterback C. J. Towles broke through the Lions’ defense for Goochland’s first and only touchdown of the night. Brooks kicked the extra point, cutting the Lions’ lead to 9-7 with 2:18 remaining.

“That really showed how elusive [Towles] was, so we just had to take the next step and be real stingy with every yard we gave up,” Brooks said.

The Lions’ defense did just that, holding the Bulldogs to 46 yards of total offense for the night, including 32 on the ground.

“Hats off to the D, man, they flew around,” said Louisa Head Coach Will Patrick. “Great assignment football. I thought we really got after the quarterback on the first few drives. I thought we really contained [Towles]; he had one nice run and we kind of shut down anybody else running the ball.”

The Lions made one last push to the end zone before the halftime break, getting the ball down to the 30-yard line as the clock ticked down the final seconds. With time for one more play, Wilson fired off a long pass to Dean for the score. Dean was Wilson’s favorite target of the night, catching four passes for 53 yards.

“The first game he messed up his knee and he’s finally back and made a huge impact right away,” Wilson said.

The Lions tried for a two-point conversion after the touchdown, but were denied, leaving the score at 15-7 heading into the break.

Louisa got the ball back to start the second half and took full advantage of it, putting together a 16-play drive that ate up most of the third quarter. They got the ball down to the five-yard line to set up a first-and-goal, but a holding penalty on the second down moved them back to the 15 and they weren’t able to get closer. Lundy put up a 28-yard field goal to extend Louisa’s lead to 18-7 with 5:34 left in the third.

“Our fullback, Troy Fischer, really opened up some holes and our guards were able to sustain some down blocks and not let their linebackers creep through from the backside,” said Patrick. “That holding call set us back, but Caden stepped up.”

Towles ran the kickoff back to the Lions’ 35-yard line, but the Lions kept the Bulldogs well shy of the end zone, forcing them to settle for a 38-yard field goal from Black, making the score 18-10 with 1:18 remaining.

The Lions took another long drive with their next possession, starting on their own 36-yard line. Smith, Wilson and Adam Mills combined for 39 rushing yards to help move the ball down to Goochland’s 22-yard line, then Wilson hit Beach with a pass for the score. Lundy’s kick was good and the Lions boosted their lead to 25-10 with 7:24 left in the game.

Louisa’s defense again came up with a big play on the next drive, with Samuel Klapak picking off a pass from Towles and running it 37 yards back down the field to the three. Austin Talley scored on the next play and the Lions again tried for a two-point conversion, but were denied. The score was now 31-10 with 6:43 left in the game. 

The Bulldogs made one final attempt to get more points on the board, but weren’t able to get closer than the 31-yard line. The Lions got the ball back with just under three minutes left and were able to run out the clock from there.

With their regular season behind them, the Lions now turn to playoffs. They travel to Lynchburg on Nov. 11 to take on the E.C. Glass Hilltoppers for the first round. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. 

“Playoff football is different,” Patrick said. “Cold weather in November, let’s go out and execute and take care of the ball. Ball control, keep explosive kids off the field like we did tonight with Towles. That’s going to be key.”

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