Louisa County was understandably riding high after beating E.C. Glass on the road last week in the Region 4D quarterfinals. The confidence was flowing for the Lions.
A fullback trap on Salem’s first offensive play of the game sent that confidence spinning. That’s when Cam Leftwich raced 87 yards right through the middle of the Louisa defense and the Lions never recovered, falling 55-7 to Salem in the Region 4D semifinals.
“We had a bunch of confidence coming into this game,” said Louisa County senior Stephen Dean. “It’s not crushed but it took the wind out of us and it’s kind of hard to take in.”
Louisa looked out of sorts on that trap by Leftwich, a fundamental play for Salem and it just snowballed on the Lions from there. As Leftwich entered the hole there was nobody at the second level to even make an attempt to tackle the Spartans’ fullback
“The trap all season long has been very good to us, that’s something we rep every day in practice,” said Salem coach Don Holter. “A lot of people think it’s outdated but it works for us. We like to trap, we like to dive, all that boring football nobody thinks is entertaining.”
Leftwich’s sprint was the first volley in an all out assault by the Spartans who led 14-0 after just two offensive plays and were locked in defensively against the Lions’ offense that had looked so efficient and calculated against Glass a week before.
“It really sets the tone for the game, you’ve really got to keep it up, you can’t let up off the gas pedal,” Leftwich said.
Things really spun out for Louisa when the Lions were forced to punt on their second possession of the game from their own 12. That gave Salem a short field and they struck on the first play with DaRon Wilson hitting Chauncey Logan for a 37-yard touchdown.
That rapid-fire deficit forced Louisa to take to the air, something they hadn’t hardly even had to attempt a week before. Chase Greer picked off a pass and Salem went to work with another short field, with Wilson finding Leftwich for a touchdown from six yards out on the first play of the second quarter. After Louisa punted for the third time, Leftwich broke free again on a trap, this time from 38 yards out, pushing the Spartans lead to 28-0.
“We just couldn’t get it going, they took away a lot of things that we thought we could do and even when they gave us looks we liked, they were just so fast to the ball,” said Louisa coach Will Patrick. “They’re fast and very physical.”
The Lions finally got something going after that fourth Salem touchdown, navigating the play of senior linebacker Noah Collins who seemed to be in on every tackle for the Spartans.
“Their d-line is the real deal and he’s one of the best linebackers we’ve played,” Patrick said.
Louisa took 12 plays to drive 74 yards with Landon Wilson powering in from 12 yards out to cut the lead to 28-7. Louisa nearly picked off a pass on the ensuing Salem possession and could’ve gotten back into the game right then. But Salem eventually punted and the Lions ended up turning it over on downs deep in their own territory and Wilson hit Logan again for a 35-7 lead just before halftime.
Leftwich finished with five touchdowns and 181 yards on the ground, tacking on two more scores in the second half, one from 38 yards and another from a yard out with five seconds left in the third.
The loss ended the careers of a pack of strong Louisa seniors led by captains Troy Fischer, Jordan Smith and Stephen Dean. That group of Lions have also learned some significant lessons that will stick with them for a long time like brotherhood and perspective.
“This program has taught me a lot — the biggest thing is brotherhood,” Dean said. “Everyone here doesn’t take things too serious because they know when to take it seriously. ”
The future is also bright for Louisa with star linemen Eli Brooks and Qwenton Spellman set to return next year along with quarterback Landon Wilson and a total of around 20 seniors. That group will finally get a chance to rest too after playing two football seasons in a span of nine months.
“We found a way to win games and make it work,” Patrick said. “It has been a long 11 months and we’ve got some kids coming.”