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Laurel football squad makes history on the gridiron and nearly makes the playoffs

Laurel seniors end careers with winning record

For the first time in 21 years, the Laurel football team played a meaningful game with postseason implications on the final day of the regular season.

Having already secured a record over .500 for the first time since the 1996 team went 7-3, this year’s Spartans were looking to earn a spot in the regional playoffs.

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They needed a victory over Central on Nov. 4 and some help from other teams to make the postseason.

Laurel did its part, trouncing Central, 44-12, but they came up less than one point short of being one of the four teams to represent the Class 4A South Region in the playoffs.

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Laurel (7-3, 6.77 point average) ended up fifth in the region, trailing Wise (10-0, 12.23), Charles H. Flowers (10-0, 11.38), Eleanor Roosevelt (8-2, 8.03) and Suitland (8-2, 7.53).

“We missed it by less than a point, but 7-3 after 21 years is not bad,” said second-year Laurel coach Mike Mayo, whose 2016 squad was 1-9.

Laurel’s 13 seniors were honored at halftime of the final game and Mayo praised some who have endured the lean times.

“It’s a group of them that were with me last year and they have been here through all the tough stuff that was going on,” said the coach, citing seniors Daisear Everett, Kyler Smith, Sean McCutchen, Joseph Loiseau and John Laurent. “They were all starters and they had been here through all of this and they just kind of were the glue.”

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Laurel linemen John Laurent, Jaden Odom and Joseph Loiseau walk off the field after helping the Spartans rush for 237 yards in the first half of a 44-12 win over Central on Nov. 4.
Laurel linemen John Laurent, Jaden Odom and Joseph Loiseau walk off the field after helping the Spartans rush for 237 yards in the first half of a 44-12 win over Central on Nov. 4. (Craig Clary/BSMG)

He appreciated the dedication and serious approach of the seniors.

“I was glad they could go out like they did, with a winning record, and feel good about the time they had put in here and the sacrifices that they made,” Mayo said.

Against Central, some of the seniors set the tone early after a rocky start.

The Spartans fumbled the opening kickoff and allowed the Falcons to get a first-and-goal at the three-yard-line following an 11-yard pass from quarterback Greg Shipmon to Kieron Black.

That’s when the Laurel defense woke up.

On first and goal, Smith stopped running back Samuel Musong after a gain of a yard.

On the next play, McCutchen and Loiseau tackled Shipmon for a three-yard loss.

On third down from the five, junior Farid Soyemi batted down a pass for an incompletion.

Central turned the ball over on downs when Smith stopped Shipmon at the one after a four-yard run.

“We fumbled the opening kickoff and that gave them good field position and then it takes you a little while to adjust and they hit a couple of plays,” Mayo said. “I think the goal line stand kind of got us back on track.”

Laurel mounted a 99-yard scoring drive that ended with a 15-yard touchdown run by junior Roy Wesley with 1:49 left in the first half.

Wesley ran in the two-point conversion, giving the Spartans an 8-0 lead.

Junior Julio Romero had an interception on the next series and that led to a 20-yard TD run by junior Neko Grant on the next play.

Wesley’s conversion run made it 16-0 with five seconds left in the first quarter.

Central’s next drive ended when sophomore Eric Washington and Laurent combined to sack Shipmon for a 13-yard loss.

Following a punt, the Spartans drove 55 yards in 11 plays for a score.

Wesley converted a 27-yard pass completion to Romero on a key play that set up Wesley’s four-yard TD run. His conversion made it 24-0 with 4:21 left in the half.

Wesley gained 70 yards on four carries on the next drive and his 20-yard scamper, behind the lead blocks of Jawad Singleton and Jaden Odom, led him to paydirt.

Wesley ran in the two-point conversion again and the lead was 32-0 with 1:13 left in the half.

Wesley, filling in for injured sophomore quarterback Jaheem Williams, who injured his ankle early in the game, gained 118 yards on 12 carries in the first half.

Williams had 26 yards on four attempts and Grant gained 86 yards on six carries, running behind a line that included: Laurent, Loiseau, senior D’Angelo Moyer and juniors Abraham Bockarie and Olusegun Ajayi.

Laurel gained 237 yards rushing in the first half.

They added touchdown receptions from Washington and Everett in the second half.

The only blemish the defense had in the first half was a 60-yard touchdown pass they allowed when Central’s Shipmon connected with Jamarr Garry down the sideline.

While the season-ending victory was special, Mayo lamented a season-opening 33-6 loss at Northeast as the one that kept them out of the playoffs.

Laurel was missing 12 players for the game that was played before Labor Day.

“The day before the game we were switching kids around and it showed and that came back to haunt us, because I didn’t think they were better than we were,” Mayo said. “I thought we could have competed in that game, but we just had too many people out. You learn from it and the kids can see how important every game is when it comes down to points.”

With several players returning next year at key positions, Mayo doesn’t expect the winning ways to end any time soon.

“They had a great year compared to what had been going on here,” Mayo said. “We are looking forward to building the program.”

Pallotti quarterback breaks record

St. Vincent Pallotti senior quarterback Brandon Stewart broke the school's career record for passing yardage throwing for 4,606 yards. This eclipsed the record of 4,449 set by Sean River from 1985-1987. Stewart finished his career with 38 passing touchdowns which ranks third in school history.

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