LAUREL — There’s nothing quite like victory formation, especially as the underdogs with a trip to the state championship on the line.
“Probably one of the funnest games I’ve ever played in," Laurel quarterback Eli Aby said after the Locomotives' 28-21 win over Hamilton in the State A semifinals. "It was really competitive, and getting back to (the title game) is just a great feeling.”
It's a feeling the Locomotives have been chasing to erase last year’s title game loss.
“We made some mistakes, turned the ball over, and it was just a really bad taste in our mouth, 35-7 walking off that field," Laurel head coach Mike Ludwig said of his team's loss to Eastern A rival Miles City in 2019.
It wasn’t long after that this year’s group got to work.
“Our slogan was, 'Leave No Doubt," said Ludwig. "Leave no doubt that we’re the best football team in the state, and that happens by going to work, getting in the weight room, getting better, and our kids did that.”
Emmet Renner shined against Hamilton, hauling in seven catches for 142 yards, many of them of his own accord, breaking free to get the Locos into scoring position for the winning touchdown in the fourth quarter.
“Once I caught the ball, I knew I had to make the defender miss and I just tried to keep it down the sideline and maneuver my way around," said Renner. "The whole game was pretty much teaching them how to play Eastern A football. Eastern A football is physical, hard-nosed football.”
That will be on full display Saturday. Billings Central and Laurel have been playing football against each other for 70 years but have never before met in in a title game. The Locos don’t intend to waste another opportunity.
“I think last year, we got into it and we might have been a little satisfied, saying, ‘Oh, this is awesome,'" Ludwig said. "We want to make sure that we prepare ourselves extremely well. We want to finish this thing. We want to get back and win a state championship.”
Whoever does will go down in history. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. in Lockwood.
A reminder: Saturday’s game is not open to the public. Fans must be invited guests of a player, manager, cheerleader or coach due to COVID-19 gathering restrictions.