LAUREL — Laurel lost some key pieces from last year’s team State A title team, but they’re loading up for another run.
Gone is the all-state quarterback/wide receiver duo of Eli Aby and Jack Waddell, but this year’s Locos haven’t missed a beat thus far under new signal caller Kyson Moran.
“We do know that we’re kind of the king of the mountain right now. People want to knock us off. We have a target on our back. We’ve got to just be even better and work even harder," Laurel head coach Mike Ludwig said. "We had a good offseason starting in January, getting a lot of kids in the weight room throughout the summer and doing some camps. Now it’s about practicing, though. We’ve got to have good practices. I tell the kids, ‘We’ve got to get better every single day. Even if its one percent, we’ve got to take a step forward in the right direction to try and defend our title.”
Moran has played significant snaps for the Locomotives, but on the defensive side of the ball. He says working against Laurel's standouts from years past defensively, as well as behind the scenes with Aby, has helped him develop as a passer.
"Going against the opposing teams' offense I get to see a lot there. Then even being on our defense an what we do lets me read different scenarios and helps me out a lot," Moran said. "Mostly technique, footwork, making sure your shoulders are turned and stuff like that. How to read defenses. ... People like Jack Waddell, trying to guard him, being on service defense when it's team offense last year, just trying to guard those good wide receivers."
Moran was spectacular in his starting debut at quarterback, completing 13 of 14 passes with 4 touchdowns for Laurel against Livingston. He can sling it around, but he’s got the luxury of one of Class A’s top running games featuring Beau Dantic, Jakob Webinger and Emmet Renner.
“We want to run the football and if we’re not able to do that, we’re not just going to scrap it. We’re going to find a way to come up with different blocking schemes and find a way to motivate our kids and make them better," Ludwig said. "We’ve got some weapons with (Renner) and (Dantic) and (Webinger). I watch those guys in the spring in track and we’ve got some speed. That’s always exciting on the football field. Those guys definitely make me look a lot better."
“We just try to keep the intensity going like a game. Practice how we play is a big thing. I think if we practice how we play we can do pretty good in games," said Dantic. "It’s really actually crucial and awesome to have a lot of guys at running back and a lot of guys that know what they’re doing.”
It’s more than just Moran and the running game, though. The offensive line retains some cohesion from last season, as does the defense. But Ludwig knows that his Locomotives will need everyone on the roster to contribute for them to compete for another State A title.
“We expect our kids to work extra hard when they have an opportunity, because we tell our kids, ‘You never know when you’re going to get an opportunity. It could be next year, or it could be the next snap, the next game,'" said Ludwig. "Football is a sport that’s awesome because it takes all 40, or 50 or 60 guys that you have because you never know when it’s going to be your time to step in and fill in for somebody that needs a break, or somebody that’s injured for a quarter or for two or three games. We’ve got high expectations for our players. We expect them to come in and not have a drop-off or a falloff when it’s their time to shine.”
Laurel is in action against Sidney on Friday night for its home opener at 7 p.m.