“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.”
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.
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.
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.