Stripes earned: Sophomore class stepping up for the Lions

Photo: Bart Isley

There are a ton of senior starters on the Louisa County roster. Then there are a handful of juniors that start. To be a sophomore and get playing time on a team this experienced, this deep and this talented? That’s not easy.


But in both the regular season and even more so in the playoffs, the Class of 2020 has come to the aid of the seniors. Jarrett Hunter’s got the start at quarterback in week two and made sure the Lions got off to a 2-0 start with his performance in a 48-14 win over Chancellor. His line of 18 carries for 189 yards and 3-for-4 passing with 35 yards and a rushing and passing touchdown was an early sign for Louisa. One that underscored that while 2017 was going to be mostly about the seniors, there’s not only a solid future for this program going forward — a handful of sophomores have the ability to make their impact felt this season.


“They’re playing like seniors, honestly,” said senior linebacker and running back Raquan Jones. “Honestly, they’ve all stepped up especially when it’s been ‘next man up.’”


Sophomore Logan Yancey is the youngest member of an offensive line that features decorated seniors in Tony Thurston, Dustin Matney and Collin Carpenter and a beloved junior in Robbie Guinn. Injuries allowed Yancey to get snaps at center and his play since then has kept him there. Along the way, he’s become one of the brothers in a fraternity that is one of the toughest and tightest, year-in year-out, in the Jefferson District.


“He used to always be a slug-butt at practice and we’d push him around and joke around with him all the time but when he got his chance to start he paid attention, started staying after practice to keep working plenty of times and do what he needed to be ready to be a starter,” Thurston said. “He stepped up and obviously he’s doing a great job. We don’t win all these games without him.”


To be a member of a unit that’s paved the way for 4,894 rushing yards and pass protected for another 921 yards in the air and a total of 80 offensive touchdowns is something special, especially since he’s touching the ball each and every snap. Yancey confesses that his step up to being a starter is a process that didn’t happen by accident. In fact, the job gets harder and harder each week as the competition level continues to improve.


“Every week it just get’s tougher,” Yancey said. “I mean even the practices get harder and more intense. The coaches are more intense. Everything is harder now. At the end of the day though it’s still snap the ball, make the block. It’s as simple as that but sometimes we have to go a little harder and give extra effort to make the play happen.”


Austin Sims is another sophomore that’s made an impact this year. He got plenty of snaps during the regular season on defense at linebacker and continues to, but arguably his two biggest contributions have really come on offense. Sims only has three catches on the year, but two of them have set up incredibly important touchdowns. His 18-yard catch in the redzone set up an easy 5-yard run for Malik Bell to Louisa on the board on the road against Monacan at a time where the Lions were just trying to keep things from getting off the rails. Against Lafayette, Sims had a 14-yard catch in the redzone on a fourth down play to move the chains.


“I just have to run a little 6-yard out-route and its working,” Sims said. “We just try it every once in awhile.”


For some underclassmen like Sims, this year is simply about doing your job when you get your number called. For a senior like Thurston who’s seen him play on both sides of the ball, it’s refreshing to have someone he can depend on, someone that doesn’t shy away from making a big play here and there.


“He knows how to make the plays when we need him,” Thurston said. “He’s just very dependable and gotten the job done every time.”


So for one last week, this edition of Louisa County football gets to enjoy a week of practice together. It’s there on the field next to the baseball field off Davis highway, route 208, where cars regularly drive by and honk as the Lions go to work. And sure enough, there will be skirmishes as Louisa prepares for a physical Salem team. The two squads are almost mirror images of each other. And so for another week, the seniors will try and lead by example and get their jabs in with the underclassmen.


“I mean in practice when there’s a scuffle we’re always going to egg on the senior,” Thurston said. “But really, at the end of the day, we don’t look at any of them as underclassmen. They’re the same people as we are. We all treat each other like family.”


And anyone with younger or older brothers knows exactly what that means. Sure, there’s kind of a pecking order with this team off the field or during practice. But when it comes to game time, you don’t care how experienced the guy next to you is. You care if they can make the play.


So Yancey will do his job on the line. Hunter will continue to play at defensive back and tote the ball from time-to-time. Sims will get his reps at linebacker and could well be involved in another big passing play. Time will tell. The Class of 2020 has already made more than enough of a contribution to this season. Don’t be surprised if one or all of them find a way to send a parting gift to the Class of 2018 in Williamsburg in the Class 4 Championship.


“We’ve thrown these younger guys into the fire but they’ve responded,” said coach Mark Fischer. “That’s just the kind of kids they are.”