Laurel High’s football team got back to what it does best Friday night.
And, in turn, the Spartans got back into the win column.
Daniel Blank and Dom Wade led the Laurel ground attack as the Spartans snapped a two-game losing streak with a 33-18 victory over Union in WPIAL Class 1A Big Seven Conference play at Spartan Stadium.
“We were able to run the ball a lot more consistently and that helped us, especially in the second half,” Laurel coach Brian Cooper said. “I thought we took over up front and were able to do a lot more things and it gave us the opportunity to get the win.”
Blank led the Spartans’ ground assault with 195 yards and four touchdowns on 19 carries. Wade added 154 yards on 24 totes. Laurel finished the game with 362 yards rushing and 432 yards of total offense.
"They come at you,” Union coach Stacy Robinson said. “They’re relentless and it’s a test of wills. For a while our kids wouldn’t bend and wouldn’t give up, but things wear you down. I’m not naïve to think that, but it’s not an excuse for us.”
It was the Scotties’ offense, however, that got on the scoreboard first.
After holding Laurel on its first two drives that ventured deep into Union territory, the Scotties’ offense went to work.
Taking over on their own 17-yard line, the Scotties engineered a seven-play drive that was capped when Michael Flowers hauled in a 14-yard scoring strike from Tyler Benedict. The point-after kick was blocked, but Union had a 6-0 lead with 3:41 remaining before the half.
“Our kids were determined,” Robinson said. “Some people think we’re not a quality football team, but deep down we are. It always takes us a little bit of time to get things rolling during the season for a variety of reasons, but each week we get better.”
Benedict had a big night through the air, completing 22 of 34 passes for 295 yards and two scores.
“He’s a mobile quarterback and that the type of quarterback we face in the entire league,” Cooper said. “A quarterback like that puts a lot of stress on your defense.”
Laurel (3-1 Big Seven, 5-2 overall) answered on its next possession as Blank broke free on a 51-yard TD scamper. The kick failed, leaving the score knotted a 6-6 with 1:59 to go in the second quarter.
The Spartans were able to get the football back on the ensuing kickoff, as Kobe DeRosa recovered a Union fumble at the Scotties’ 33.
“So many people forget how special teams can change the game,” Cooper said. “That helped us big time.”
Three plays later, Will Shaffer hooked up with Dylan Aquaro on a 31-yard scoring pass. The conversion pass failed, but the Spartans had a 12-6 lead at the half.
Laurel took the second-half kickoff and marched 60 yards in 12 plays — all on the ground. Blank bulled his way up the middle from 7 yards out to polish off the drive. Zachary Maine added the kick as the Spartans increased their lead to 19-6 with 5:30 remaining in the third quarter.
Union, which had its three-game winning streak snapped, answered in just two plays, as Benedict hit Tyler Staub for a 61-yard gainer down to the Laurel 1. From there, the Scotties signal caller called his own number and found his way into the end zone. The conversion pass failed, but Union cut the deficit to 19-12 at the 4:37 mark of the third quarter.
Staub finished with 135 yards receiving on five catches. Benedict added a team-high 69 yards rushing to go along with his 295 through the air.
The Scotties would get no closer as touchdown runs by Blank of 30 and 8 yards early in the fourth quarter increased the Spartans’ lead to 33-12 before Benedict found Flowers from 5 yards out with 6:54 remaining in the game to set the final.
“When you’re playing that cross-town rival, emotions are going to be a lot higher,” Cooper said. “Union has been playing good football the last couple of weeks, and it was important for us to get back on the winning track. We’ve got two big games coming up in the next two weeks (Cornell and Sto-Rox), but we knew we couldn’t overlook these guys.”