DILLON -- Laurel scored 21 first-quarter points to stun Dillon early and then held off the Beavers for a 21-12 win Friday in the semifinal round of the Class A state football playoffs.
The Locomotives built their lead thanks to the play of their defense and special teams. They forced the home Beavers into three punts in the first quarter. Laurel blocked the first one, recovering the ball at the Dillon 1-yard line. Ethan Renner bulldozed into the end zone on the next play to give Laurel a quick 7-0 lead.
After the Beavers' next punt, Renner broke through the Dillon defense for a 72-yard run to set himself up for another 1-yard score.
Dillon's difficulties continued moments later when the Laurel defense forced its third punt of the game. The Beavers snapped the ball into the end zone, and the Locomotives dove on the loose ball for their third touchdown in the first quarter.
"Our special teams played really well. I thought they did a good job at getting us good field position," said Laurel head coach Mike Ludwig. "And we pinned them back on some kickoffs so hat's off to our special teams."
Laurel wouldn't score again, but the defense still made Dillon work for every yard it gained. The Beavers ultimately scored two touchdowns -- an Erik Westman run and a Cooper Hoffman reception -- but the Locomotive defense forced a late fumble to secure the win.
Laurel (9-1) now advances to the state championship game where it will meet either Miles City or Hamilton. The Cowboys, the lone undefeated team remaining in Class A, host the Broncs on Saturday.
"I’m just proud of these guys, I’m so happy for them," said Ludwig. "This opportunity doesn’t come along often and I told them that all week long. They're playing in the state championship, it’s down to the two best teams in Class A. So, I’m super proud of these guys that they traveled on the road, they traveled well, they played hard.”