Louisa and Courtland have staged an early season battle every season since 2003.

The Lions and Cougars dubbed their matchup the “Big Cat Classic.”

Louisa head coach Mark Fischer and Courtland’s J.C. Hall arrived at their schools the same season.

“There’s not a program, a staff or a team that I respect more in the world,” Fischer said.

But Fischer and the Lions put that respect aside in the season opener Friday on their home field.

The Lions rolled to a dominant 41–7 victory as they looked every bit the part of a team with expectations of playing deep into November.

“I can definitely see that being a statement game to all the other teams,” Louisa junior inside linebacker Brandon Smith said. “But we’ve just got to keep on working and not take anything for granted.”

Smith and the Lions defense harassed the Cougars all over the field.

They held Courtland’s vaunted wing–T offense to 101 total yards and seven first downs. Most of Courtland’s yardage came on the final drive when it trailed 41–0.

The Cougars had just 34 total yards entering the final period. They had to execute a fake punt in the second quarter to record their initial first down of the game.

Fischer said the Lions’ defensive effort “really boils down to the kids picking up and studying film.” Fischer said the unit was recognizing its keys early in the week during practice. First-year defensive coordinator Mikey Clements “worked his fanny off preparing for this one,” Fischer said.

“Being in the right spot against these guys, you don’t do that consistently,” Fischer added.

The Lions’ offense was led by senior quarterback Malik Bell, who has trimmed 30 pounds off his frame from a year ago.

Bell rushed for two touchdowns and passed for another. He also recorded an interception from his free safety position and rumbled 55 yards to set up his 7-yard touchdown run with 15 seconds to go before halftime. That gave the Lions a 26–0 lead.

Bell would’ve preferred to score on the interception but after the game he had no complaints.

“I got the pick and I was running down the sideline,” Bell said. “My man tripped in front of me and I had to hurdle over top of him. I thought I was gone. I saw the end zone but unfortunately I didn’t get there.”

The Lions were sloppy on their opening drive as a botched snap led to a three and out. But Louisa was able to march 54 yards for a score on its next possession. Bell capped the drive with a short pass to David Sharpe who weaved through Courtland’s defense for the score and a 7–0 lead.

“Those guys are fast and when they get the ball in space it’s a dangerous sight,” Bell said of athletic Lions like Sharpe. “Nobody can catch them.”

Senior running back Job Whalen added 62 rushing yards and two scores for Louisa. Backup quarterback Jarrett Hunter capped the Lions’ scoring with a 36-yard run in the fourth quarter.

Courtland’s lone score was a 6-yard run by sophomore fullback Daniel Curry.

The Cougars will try to get their first win of the season next Friday when they host Liberty (Bealeton). Louisa visits Chancellor the same night.

Courtland     00007
Louisa     20     6     8     7     —     41

First Quarter

Lo—David Sharpe 24-yd pass from Malik Bell (Henley kick).

Lo—Job Whalen 5-yd run (kick missed).

Lo—Bell 14-yd run (Henley kick).

Second Quarter

Lo—Bell 7-yd run (2-pt pass failed).

Third Quarter

Lo—Whalen 36-yd run (Crosby run).

Fourth Quarter

Lo—Jarrett Hunter 36-yd run (Henley kick).

Ct—Daniel Curry 6-yd run (Lynch kick).

 LoCt
First Downs147
Rushes-yards     46-24046-90
Passing yards6011
Comp-Att-Int5-12-01-7-2
Punts-Avg.3-38     6-31.5
Fumbles-lost3-14-2
Penalties-yards     9-764-43

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING: Louisa—Bell 17-64; Whalen 17-61; D.J. Jones 3-61; J. Hunter 4-41; Sharp 2-13; Teddy Hunter 1-1; Matt West 1-1; Mark Carter 1-(-2). Courtland—Curry 7-36, TD; Zin White 10-29, Ethan Rector 4-26; D.J. Jones 3-9; Ryan Lynch 2-9 Kam’Ron Taylor 7-7; Gill 9-(-10); Lewis 2-(-16).

PASSING: Louisa—Bell 5-12, 60 yds, TD. Courtland—Donovan Gill 1-5-2, 11 yards; Shyheem Lewis 0-2-0

RECEIVING: Louisa—Sharp 2-32; Jones 2-13; Carter 1-15. Courtland—White 1-11. Louisa—Sharpe 3-39, TD; Carter 1-15; Jones 1-6.

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Taft Coghill Jr: 540/374-5526

tcoghill@freelancestar.com

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