A late run was not enough to get Laurel into the WPIAL Class A playoffs.

However, the Spartans’ four-game winning streak to close the season put the squad in third place in the Big Seven Conference at 5-2.

Four Laurel players — Daniel Blank, Mitch Miles, Jack Rogan and Dom Wade — earned first-team all-conference honors, with Miles earning co-lineman of the year status alongside Rochester’s Kyle Mersing. Union’s Aaron Gunn made the first team as well.

LAUREL HEATS UP

Laurel opened the year 0-2, but won its next two for an even mark. After two more losses, the Spartans closed the year with triumphs over Union, Cornell, Sto-Rox and Northgate. The team just missed qualifying for the eight-team WPIAL tournament. The conference’s top two squads — OLSH and Rochester — did and met for the WPIAL title, with the Chargers posting a 28-6 victory.

Miles, only a sophomore, earned first-team honors on the offensive and defensive lines, in addition to his co-lineman of the year nod.

“It’s truly remarkable for a sophomore to be able to achieve that status. He had a phenomenal year. He disrupted a lot of plays and blocked a lot of punts,” Laurel coach Brian Cooper said. “Our line played well and he and Jack played well for us all year. Mitch’s ability to finish blocks and his explosion really stood out. I think a lot of the coaches were wowed he was only a 10th grader.

“On offense, he was mostly a guard, but played some tackle. On defense, he was a tackle and a defensive end. That shows you a lot about his versatility.”

Rogan, a senior, was a force on the offensive line as well.

“Jack was a carbon copy of Mitch on the other side of our offense. He was on the right and Mitch was on the left. He was a guard and sometimes had to play tackle as well,” Cooper said. “He was a three-year starter for us and one of the most consistent players I’ve coached on the line. He has the ability to play in college and he’d be a great catch for some school.”

Blank, a junior, earned honors at running back. He finished third in the county with 1,021 yards on 136 carries. He scored 17 touchdowns and a pair of 2-point conversions.

“He had a bust-out year running the ball. We knew he had great speed, but he really showed an ability to finish runs,” Cooper said. “The thing that impressed me most was the yardage he got after making contact. He just kept his feet going. He was relentless. He really came into his own as a blocker, too. He really showed a lot this year.”

Wade, a junior, earned first-team honors at linebacker.

“He is one of the smartest kids I’ve coached in the game of football. He’s the perfect guy you want in the middle of the field making all the calls,” Cooper said. “He is the prototypical linebacker. He has great instincts to the ball and runs well and has great size. He had a great year offensively and defensively. You won’t find many better students of the game than him.”

The Spartans’ strong run left the team at 6-4 overall. With many returning key players, they remain optimistic for next fall.

“We lost a couple guys, but, for the most part, we have a lot of the pieces back for next year. Sometimes, it takes a while to find an identity. Now, we know who we are coming into next season,” Cooper said. “We should get a couple guys back who were injured early on. We’re excited at what we can do. We actually felt that we got a little cheated toward the end of the season for playoffs. Hopefully, it makes our kids hungrier for next year.”

GUNN LEADS UNION

Gunn, a sophomore, is another young area lineman. He earned first-team honors on the offensive line.

“He has a bright future. He works hard at it. He is young, but we ask him to do a lot for us on both sides of the ball. It was good that he was recognized by the other coaches in the league,” Union coach Stacy Robinson said. “Sometimes, he played center and offensive guard, but he’s primarily a tackle. We plopped him wherever we could to get the most bang for our buck. He did a great job adjusting to the weekly changes we had a to make.”

The Scotties finished 2-5 in the conference and 3-7 overall.

“A lot of the guys are back and now they see the thin line out there; we should have had a couple more wins,” Robinson said. “Hopefully, they know what it takes now. When moments arise next year and the year after that, they’ll know what it takes to pull out a win.”

Joe Sager is a former full-time sports writer for the New Castle News and currently freelances for the News and other Western Pennsylvania newspapers.

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