BILLINGS -- Laurel dominated Billings Central from the opening snap on Friday night at Herb Klindt Field on the campus of Rocky Mountain College, as the Locomotives beat the Rams 33-0 for their first Eastern A football win over Billings Central since 2002.
"It definitely feels good. I'm happy for our fans," Laurel head coach Mike Ludwig said after the game with a smile gracing his face. "I'm a Laurel guy, I graduated from Laurel. I've been a part of this losing streak for a long time, so it definitely feels good. I'm happy for our fans, for our players and our coaches. Everyone did a dang good job and they worked hard. I'm not going to lie, it feels pretty damn good."
"Just hard work, determination," Laurel running back Ethan Renner said. "Our team came out there and wanted the win more than anyone else, I think. Tired of the streak and we put the work in."
The game got off to a sloppy beginning, as both sides turned the ball over early. Laurel drove deep into Billings Central territory before Eli Aby was intercepted by Marcus Wittman. Central, though, would give it right back. Junior Brackenridge coughed up the ball on a bubble screen and newly minted Laurel Locomotive Danner Purkett picked it up. Purkett and teammate Jack Waddell are Laurel's two newest additions having come over from Livingston in the summer.
"They've been huge. They're two great kids, first of all," Ludwig said of Purkett and Waddell. "They're good football players. They play hard, they show up to work, they show up to practice. ... We're so damn happy we have those guys. They've been a great addition to our football team."
Purkett's fumble recovery led to the first of four touchdowns for Renner, Laurel's stud senior tailback. Facing fourth down inside the Billings Central 15-yard line, Aby found Renner on a dump-off underneath, and Renner raced the defense to the edge before crossing the goal line.
After forcing a Central punt, Laurel again drove deep into Rams territory. And once again, Laurel would convert on fourth down. Renner's 8-yard scamper with 24 seconds left in the first half gave the Locomotives a 14-0 halftime lead. Laurel's success on the ground was just beginning, though.
After trading punts to open the third quarter, Laurel was able to extend its lead. Renner, who looked as if he was shot out of a cannon, burst up the middle untouched and rumbled 60 yards for his third touchdown of the day.
Purkett then again made his presence known on the defensive side of the ball. Central opted to punt pinned back deep in its own territory, but Purkett got his right hand on the punt, which caromed perfectly into Connor Bergman's hands. Bergman galloped into the end zone, and the rout was on.
Renner added his fourth and final touchdown on a 9-yard run with just more than three minutes to play to push Laurel's lead to 33-0. The Laurel backfield, led by Renner, and the offensive line were relentless all evening.
"We always want to run the ball. Our philosophy is run the ball and stop the run," Ludwig said. "We want to always establish the run, and we've kind of struggled. We put in some new things, some new packages, some new blocking schemes, and I thought our running backs did a dang good job. ... Once we started kind of getting the balling rolling and running, I think we got them on their heels just a little bit and those 3-yard gains were turning into 6-yard gains. ... You run the ball, it moves the chains, runs the clock. Good things happen when you run the football."
The win moves Laurel to 4-1, and the Locos will battle for second place with Lewistown next Friday night at home. Billings Central falls to 4-1 and will travel to conference-leading and unbeaten Miles City next Friday.
Class A football scores
Dillon 41, Browning 0
Frenchtown 42, Polson 0
Glendive 7, Sidney 0
Hamilton 56, Columbia Falls 7
Laurel 33, Billings Central 0
Lewistown 50, Hardin 20
Libby 29, Butte Central 21
Miles City 2, Livingston 0 (forfeit)
Ronan 48, Stevensville 26
Whitefish 31, Corvallis 7