LAUREL – It was the underdog’s night Thursday.
The Laurel girls and Billings Central boys got key wins over favored opponents to add plenty of intrigue to the Eastern A soccer races.
Aspen Cotter scored a goal in the 46th minute to give Laurel a 1-0 win over previously undefeated Billings Central, evening the season series between the rivals who have met in the past three State A championship games. Laurel beat Central for the title in 2017 after losing the first two.
Freshman goalkeeper Mya Hansen shut out the highest-scoring team in the state on Thursday. Central had scored 81 goals in its first 10 matches of the season, including a 2-0 win over Laurel on Sept. 20.
The win keeps Laurel’s hopes of a conference title alive. Central leads the Eastern A with 12 points, with the Locomotives second at 10 points. Central needs at least a tie against Belgrade Saturday to earn the No. 1 seed. A loss and a Laurel win against Livingston would give the Locos the No. 1 seed.
Central’s boys, meanwhile, picked up their first win of the season, 3-2 over Laurel, and jumped in front of the Locomotives for the final playoff spot in the East.
The Rams scored two minutes into the game, and Camden Capser made it 2-0 later in the first half. Goalkeeper Michael Horrell saved a Laurel penalty kick to keep it 2-0, before Layne Chelgren scored right before half to cut the deficit to 2-1.
Each team scored early in the second half, but Laurel was unable to equalize late.
Central jumped over Laurel into third in the East with four points, while the Locos sit in fourth with three. The top three teams advance to the Class A playoffs. Central hosts league-leader Belgrade Saturday, while Laurel hosts Livingston in the regular-season finalés.