LAUREL -- For a handful of minutes on Friday night, it appeared that Laurel was the football team trying to shake off a five-hour bus trip and that Frenchtown was enjoying home-field advantage. That oddity was quickly righted as the home-team Locomotives corrected early mistakes and never looked back in a 35-13 Class A first-round playoff victory.
Frenchtown, the No. 3 seed from the Western A, made sure its opening possession counted, driving down the field and capitalizing on a Wyatt Hayes 9-yard touchdown pass to Devin Shelton to give the Broncs a 7-0 lead. On the ensuing kickoff, Laurel never fielded the Broncs' kick, and Frenchtown recovered, but the Broncs came up unsuccessful on a fourth-down attempt moments later.
"We kind of got some momentum. That's a big thing that people kind of forget about sometimes. It's a huge part of the game," Laurel head coach Mike Ludwig said. "Once we got that stop on defense, we kind of got rolling on offense a little bit. We gained a little bit of momentum, little more confidence and started playing a little better."
That was just the wake-up call Laurel needed.
Beau Dantic scored a 5-yard rushing touchdown to tie the game minutes later, then Eli Aby hit Jack Waddell for a 28-yard score on the final play of the opening quarter, giving the Locomotives the 14-7 advantage.
Laurel kept its foot on the gas in the second, going deep into the playbook for a hook-and-lateral, where Aby found Emmet Renner who in turn pitched back to Dantic for a 50-yard score, and the rout appeared to be on. Laurel led 21-7 on the three consecutive touchdowns in some seven minutes of game time.
"Coach (Matt) Kimmett has had it in his back pocket for a while with different years we've run it," Ludwig said. "I didn't even know if he was going to put it in this year. We just worked on it this week and it kind of worked to perfection. It was a nice play for us."
Laurel added an interception to its stat line later in the quarter, leading to Aby, the Montana State-bound athlete, connecting with Waddell for the second time just before the half, extending the lead to 28-7 Laurel. The two would strike again early in the third quarter, with Waddell showing some speed on a 46-yard catch-and-run play down the sideline to make it 35 consecutive points for the Locomotives.
Tel Arthur added a 3-yard touchdown run late in the game for Frenchtown, the final score of the season for the Broncs, who end the 2020 campaign at 7-3.
Laurel (6-1) awaits the winner between Sidney and Hamilton, who kick off at 1 p.m. on Saturday. The Locomotives would travel to No. 1-seeded Hamilton in the semifinals, but would host the Eagles should Sidney pull off an upset.