For the second year in a row, a late run couldn’t get the Laurel High football team into the WPIAL Class 1A playoffs.
Despite knocking off Sto-Rox, the Big Seven Conference champ, the Spartans’ losses to OLSH and Cornell proved to be too much as they finished tied for third and out of contention for the Big Seven’s two playoff spots.
Three Laurel players — Dom Wade, Mitch Miles and Will Shaffer — earned first-team all-conference honors. Wade was named the conference’s defensive player of the year, while Miles repeated as the conference’s lineman of the year. Union’s Aaron Gunn and Michael Flowers made the first team as well.
THREE LEAD LAUREL
Miles, only a junior, earned first-team honors on the offensive and defensive lines. He repeated as the Big Seven’s lineman of the year.
“It’s well-deserved. I’ve never coached a more dominant lineman on both sides of the ball,” Laurel coach Brian Cooper said. “He has the ability to make huge, athletic plays and he shouldn’t be able to move like he can at 6-4, 290 pounds, but he does. I can’t wait to see what he accomplishes next season. The sky is the limit for his ability.”
Wade, a senior, earned first-team honors at running back and linebacker as well as defensive player of the year. He rushed for 790 yards, threw for 35 yards and scored 10 touchdowns.
“He had a tremendous year for us. He is such a leader on the field. He is a very smart football player. He knows and understands our offense and defense so well,” Cooper said. “He has a good nose for the football. He’s an aggressive, big, strong and fast kid. He does a lot of the little things and that makes him successful
“Any coach you talk to in our league respects Dom. He plays the game the right way. I think the coaches saw that and rewarded him.”
Shaffer, a senior, earned first-team honors at punter. He passed for 611 yards and six touchdowns and added four catches for 30 yards. He scored one touchdown on the year.
“He is just a great athlete. He is the one of the best athletes I’ve ever coached,” Cooper said. “He has a strong arm and is a great receiver. We could put him in any position and he’d do well. It shows the type of athlete he is.”
Injuries plagued Laurel, which was the top-ranked WPIAL team early in the season, once again. The Spartans finished 7-3 overall.
“We lose some big players and those guys will be hard to replace,” Cooper said. “At the same time, we have a strong nucleus coming back. Hopefully, we can get through a season without so many injuries. All we can do is work hard and our kids are doing that.”
HONORS FOR UNION DUO
Flowers, a senior, earned honors at running back and defensive back. He finished with 563 rushing yards. He finished tied for second in the county with 37 catches for 516 yards. He added 14 touchdowns.
“It’s always a special honor when the other coaches take note of how valuable your performance is on both sides of the ball. He was respected by the other teams in the league,” Union coach Stacy Robinson said. “Mike has been around making plays for us for four years. Even as a freshman, you could see his ability. He had to step in and contribute early and I think it helped prepare Mike for the moment. We definitely counted on him this year more than ever. He carried the load for us.”
Gunn, a junior, earned honors on the offensive and defensive lines.
“That’s another impressive feat. He has earned a lot of respect throughout the league over the past couple years,” Robinson said. “With all the attention he is getting, he has to be on his ‘A’ game each week. He came to play each week. That’s a testament to his ability.
“The arrow is pointing up for him, as they say. He’ll have to continue to work and I think he’ll welcome the challenge and get the job done.”
The Scotties opened the season with three losses, but rallied for wins in their next three games. However, the team dropped its final four games to finish 3-4 in the conference and 3-7 overall. The team played most of the season with uncertainty that the program may not return next year due to low participation. Union decided to maintain its own football program and not seek a cooperative agreement with another school.
“It was kind of a disappointing season. We lost our first league game and got behind the 8-ball there,” Robinson said. “With all the kids had to put up with with the numbers situation, they kept their eyes straight ahead and played football each week. I give them credit for that.”
Big Seven Conference
Quarterback: Zaier Harrison (Cornell), Sr.
Running backs: Dom Wade (Laurel), Sr., Stephen Greer (OLSH), Soph., Saron Wilson (Cornell), Sr., Michael Flowers (Union), Sr.
Wide receivers: Amahd Pack (Sto-Rox), Sr., Isaiah Langston (Cornell), Sr.
Tight end: Eric Olexa (OLSH), Sr.
Offensive linemen: Mitch Miles (Laurel), Jr., Dion McIntosh (OLSH), Soph., Myier Woodward (Sto-Rox), Sr., Aaron Gunn (Union), Jr., Will Dank (Cornell), Sr.
Kicker: Ryan Gehring (OLSH), Jr.
Defensive linemen: Mitch Miles (Laurel), Jr., Eric Olexa (OLSH), Sr., Aaron Gunn (Union), Jr., Myier Woodward (Sto-Rox), Sr.
Linebackers: Dom Wade (Laurel), Sr., Brock Saftner (OLSH), Sr., Blaine Sams (Cornell), Sr., Diontae Givens (Sto-Rox), Jr.
Defensive backs: Jaymar Pearson (OLSH), Soph., Michael Flowers (Union), Sr., Zaier Harrison (Cornell), Sr., Darnell Anderson (Sto-Rox), Sr.
Punter: Will Shaffer (Laurel), Sr.
Offensive Player of the Year: Zaier Harrison (Cornell)
Defensive Player of the Year: Dom Wade (Laurel)
Lineman of the Year: Mitch Miles (Laurel)
Coach of the Year: Ed Dawson (Cornell)
Quarterback: Eric Wilson (Sto-Rox), Sr.
Running backs: Daniel Blank (Laurel), Sr.; Brock Saftner (OLSH), Sr., Rashawn Reid (Rochester), Jr.
Wide receivers: Kaden DiVito (Cornell), Sr., Jaidon Berry (Sto-Rox), Sr.
Tight end: Cam Caldararo (Laurel), Soph.
Offensive linemen: Ajay Cirelli, Bishop Canevin, Sr., Tyler Godfrey (Cornell), Sr., Dan Farrell (OLSH), Jr., Rylan Collier (Laurel), Jr., Clayton Cooper (Northgate), Sr., Ryan Zawislak (Rochester), Jr.
Kicker: Zach Maine (Laurel), Jr.
Defensive linemen: Cam Caldararo (Laurel), Soph., Brennan Harris (Sto-Rox), Sr., Manus Tonery (OLSH), Jr., Matt Bedekovich (Rochester), Jr.
Linebackers: Dylan Greer (Sto-Rox), Sr., Tyler Godfrey (Cornell), Sr., Vito Pascale (Northgate), Soph., Cam Smith (Laurel), Sr., Denny Robinson (Rochester), Soph.
Defensive backs: Rashwan Reid (Rochester), Jr., Savon Wilson (Cornell), Sr., Logan Ayers (Laurel), Soph., Aujori Nelson (Sto-Rox), Sr.
Punter: Zaier Harrison (Cornell), Sr.