Laurel wins 4th state championship with victory over St. Elizabeth

Benny Mitchell Headlines, Sports

Laurel Bulldogs 2021 Class 1A football state champions

Laurel Bulldogs 2021 Class 1A football state champions, photo courtesy of Ben Fulton of BF Imagery

Newark – The last time the Laurel Bulldogs won a state title none of the players on the roster had even been born yet. With their 28-14 win over St. Elizabeth on Saturday night at Delaware Stadium this current group of Bulldogs are now linked with the past as football state champions.

 

Laurel won their fourth state football title in school history this time the new Class A state champions. These players now share in the same company as defensive coordinator Brian Hearn who played on the 1991 state title team or superintendent Shawn Larrimore who played on both the 1986 and 1987 state championship teams.

 

“The boss, Dr. Larrimore came on the field and gave me a hug after the game tighter than my wife did,” Laurel head coach Joey Jones said.

 

Laurel used a strong running game and an aggressive defensive attack to wear down the Vikings in the second half, but it was St. Elizabeth that struck first in the game causing Laurel to play catch up early.

 

On a first and sixteen St. Elizabeth quarterback Brett Smick dropped back off of play action and tossed a 26 yard touchdown pass to Chris Caracter to open the scoring. Quasim Benson ran the two point conversion into the endzone giving his Vikings an 8-0 lead with 6:49 to go in the first quarter.

 

After taking the initial punch from St. Elizabeth, Laurel quickly counter punched quickly. Kyler Weaver’s 34 yard run on a counter play took the ball down to the Vikings six yard line. A play later Javier White scored on a six yard run around the right end extending the ball over the goalline as he was being tackled. St. Elizabeth stopped the two point run attempt, Laurel trailed 14-6.

 

Just when it looked like St. Elizabeth would take the lead into halftime, the momentum swung quickly. On a third and six with 38 seconds to play in the half Smick’s pass was intercepted by Omori’yon Cannon at the Vikings 42 yard line who returned the ball to the 28 yard line.

 

“That was the biggest turning point of the game, after the interception Javi said 43 lead, call it and I will score,” Jones said.

 

On the next play White broke a tackle at the line of scrimmage and sprinted up the middle for a 28 yard touchdown run. White added the two point conversion run giving Laurel a 14-8 lead with 19 seconds left to play in the first half.

 

“Javi actually called the play, he has earned that respect with the staff and the team. When he has something to say the coaches and other player’s listen, he is such a smart and emotional leader on the field,” Jones said.

 

White had 106 yard and two touchdowns for Laurel.

 

The Laurel defense turned up the intensity to start the second half forcing the Vikings to punt on their first possession. The snap went through the hands of punter Matthew Ross who was able to chase down the ball and fall on it ahead of several Bulldog defenders, but Laurel would take over first and goal at the three yardline.

 

Kylse Wilson went up the middle on the next play for a three yard touchdown run. Mike Gonzalez-Perez added the extra point kick giving Laurel a 21-8 lead with 9:29 to play in the third quarter.

 

From there the intensity of the Laurel defense began to take over the game. The defense held Benson to just 47 yards rushing in the game, Benson the Class A Player of the Year averaged 155 yards per game during the season.

 

Play after play the Laurel linebacker crew of Weaver, Evan Collins, Jayden Smith and Xavier Limehouse were making tackles in the backfield while defensive end Damontra Smith denied the Vikings running back to get around the edge.

 

“The defense just turned up the heat in the second half, they are very knowledgeable and make it easy to implement new game plans, in the second half they played like a pack of wild dogs,” Jones said.

 

Wilson added the exclamation point on the victory scoring on an eight yard run untouched up the middle with just over three minutes left on the clock. Gonzalez-Perez added the kick giving the Bulldogs a 28-8 lead.

 

St. Elizabeth refused to lay down in the final minutes as Smick answered with a 37 yard touchdown pass to Caracter with 2:10 to play in the game.

 

The Laurel offense would run out the clock from that point with an ice bucket bath for Jones to end the game.

 

“This feels incredible, it is difficult to get to a championship and to be ranked number one and stay on top all season, but these kids did it,” Jones said.

 

“When we got back home the staff spent several minutes in the locker room with the team just to take time to reflect and let them know they finished the job,” Jones added.

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