BILLINGS – Gone are the days of Vince Henman and a bruising Laurel Locomotive rushing attack.
Now, the Locos are beating people through the air, and it all starts with senior quarterback Gage Hull. He just won’t tell you that.
“You know, I’m just surrounded by talent,” Hull said. “My guys in front help me out. Whenever they give me time, I have great receivers downfield making plays for me. It’s a team record, I think.”
The record he’s talking about is Laurel’s all-time passing yards mark – not bad for a two-year starter who had some pretty big shoes to fill.
“Coming into high school, I had Casey Cole ahead of me,” Hull said. “He was a great player, someone I looked up to, and just the way he held himself together.”
Cole was one of the best athletes to come out of Laurel in recent years, but not even he could break Laurel’s playoff drought. The Locomotives haven’t advanced past the quarterfinal round since winning it all 16 years ago.
“We’ve struggled with it, because of the seeding, where we’ve ended up in the bracket the last couple of years,” said Laurel head coach Mike Ludwig. “This is our 10th year of being in the playoffs, and we always play someone who wins the championship or plays for the championship.”
“We try not to put too much pressure on ourselves,” Hull said. “Day in and day out, we don’t really look to the future too much, but we’re all thinking about it.”
The Locomotives have two things in their favor Saturday. Corvallis upset Frenchtown in the first round last week, so Laurel gets to face the West’s No. 6 seed, and they’ll be fully rested coming off a bye.
“I think it’s going to help us immensely,” said Hull. “We don’t have too many numbers out here, and for everybody to heal up, have a week to relax, take it easy, I think it will help us going into the playoffs.”
That left arm should have plenty in the tank, too, to try to make more history.