It might not be apparent in Laurel's 2-5 record, and after a 64-20 homecoming loss, but the Spartans are making progress on the football field.
Overall, Laurel has been more competitive than in the past two seasons.
"We are attracting more and more talent to come out and play football," coach Todd Sommerville said. "I wouldn't call it a breakthrough year, but it's definitely been a great year for the Laurel community."
Sommerville measures success in incremental steps, considering the team went 1-9 last year and 2-8 in 2011.
The Spartans have an opportunity for more wins with home games against Wise (Oct. 26) and Eleanor Roosevelt (Nov. 2) and a road game at DuVal (No. 9) remaining on the schedule.
The team seems to have a level of enthusiasm that wasn't there the past two seasons.
"Everybody is excited about the team," Sommerville said. "We are putting up great stats."
Most of the improved numbers are coming from the offense.
Quarterback Mason Duckett has emerged as a dual threat running the spread offense. He has thrown for 1,489 yards and 16 touchdowns.
The 6-foot, 180-pound senior has rushed 331 yards and three touchdowns, including a 64-yard score in a 64-20 loss to Bowie on Oct. 19.
Duckett had big shoes to fill, replacing Jarvis McClam, the 2012 Laurel Leader Athlete of the Year, who is now playing for Division III Seton Hill University in Pennsylvania.
"He's done a great job and has definitely exceeded what I expected out of him," Sommerville said. "He's been very coachable, listening and responding to what he's supposed to be doing. He's making good decisions, the right progressions and finding the open receiver."
Sommerville is also excited about 5-9, 185-pound running back Damon Bailey.
Bailey rushed for a career-high 108 yards on 17 carries against Bowie running behind an offensive line of tackles Jalil Dukes and Jamaal Dukes, guards Kalu Uche and Michael Curry and center Mylic Curry.
Bailey left the game in the fourth quarter with an ankle injury.
If Bailey is unable to play against Wise, the Spartans will increase the role of senior Brandon Boodie and junior Keyon Pannell.
"He (Bailey) is a guy who didn't get a lot of touches a year ago," Sommerville said. "He is a hard-nosed, downhill runner. He will hit you before you hit him. He will hit a hole quickly and break a couple of tackles."
The Spartans had hoped to carry their momentum from a 48-36 victory over Parkdale on Oct. 14 into the homecoming game against Bowie.
But the Bulldogs (3-4) had an easy time with Laurel, jumping out to a 21-0 lead in the first seven minutes.
There was a running clock for much of the second half because Bowie led by 35 points or more.
Bulldogs junior quarterback Juvonny Sizemore completed 17 of 27 passes for 386 yards and touchdown passes of 65, 62 and 30 yards.
He also ran for two more scores.
"Our defense couldn't stop any of their wide receivers," Sommerville said. "Anytime some team scores 64 points on you, it's a tough game. At the end of the game, it looked like we just wanted to roll up and go home."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun