Bulldogs pull away from St. Elizabeth for 28-13 victory

By Mike McClure

The Laurel varsity football team held a narrow, 14-13, lead over St. Elizabeth in the fourth quarter of last Saturday’s state championship game at the University of Delaware before scoring a pair of touchdowns to pull away for the 28-13 win. The Bulldogs’ defense and special teams made key plays in the second half to help the team win its second straight 1A state championship.

“We’re just a good defense. Coach (Brian) Hearn always preaches ‘eleven hats to the football’,” Laurel senior Evan Collins said.

The Bulldogs’ Xavier Limehouse carries the ball for a 29-yard touchdown during last Saturday’s 28-13 win over St. Elizabeth in the 1A state championship game. Photo by Mike McClure

“Things got tough, our guys got better,” said Laurel head coach Joey Jones. “There’s nothing more you can ask for as a coach and a team.”

Laurel junior Owen Chaffinch recovered a Vikings’ fumble on the first play of St. Elizabeth’s opening series. On fourth and two from the 29, Laurel quarterback Kaden Shockley tossed the ball to Xavier Limehouse who ran 29 yards for the touchdown. Mike Gonzalez-Perez booted the extra point for a 7-0 Laurel lead with 9:43 left in the quarter.

Laurel’s defense stuffed the Vikings’ running attack on their next possession, forcing a punt on fourth and five from the 45.

Laurel moved the ball into St. Elizabeth territory on a seven-yard run by Shockley and a 22-yard scamper by Kylse Wilson. St. Elizabeth recorded a sack on fourth and five from the Vikings’ 33 to turn the ball over on downs.

The Bulldogs got the ball back as the defense forced another three and out.

Wilson moved the ball to the Vikings’ 13 with a 23-yard run and Tate Walls pushed it into the end zone on a 13-yard carry. Laurel took a 14-0 lead following the PAT (9:16).

Laurel senior Ny’Aire Farlow intercepted a St. Elizabeth pass, but a couple penalties kept the Bulldogs from capitalizing on the turnover. The Vikings started with the ball on their own 14 yard-line and put together a drive late in the first half. 

St. Elizabeth’s Christopher Caracter had a nine-yard run on third and seven before rumbling 26 yards to the Laurel 29. On third and eight from the 22, Caracter took a toss and threw to Tom Schiavoni for a touchdown. The Vikings pulled within seven following the extra point with just 57 seconds remaining in the first half.

Laurel started the second half with the ball and moved it downfield thanks to three runs by Wilson and a face mask penalty on the Vikings. Limehouse added a 10-yard run and Shockley pitched to Wilson on the option for a nine-yard pickup and a first down on fourth and nine from the St. Elizabeth 34. Shockley’s pass on fourth and eight from the 25 fell incomplete and the Vikings got the ball back.

A Laurel penalty helped St. Elizabeth move the ball into Bulldogs’ territory, but Laurel senior Evan Collins made a stop on fourth and one from the Laurel 42.

“I just focussed in on my keys,” said Collins. “We had to get a big play. I feel like it changed the momentum.”

The two teams exchanged punts with Laurel getting the ball back on the 45 early in the fourth quarter. Shockley looked to pick up a first down on a keeper on fourth and two from the Vikings’ 47, but a bad spot gave possession to St. Elizabeth. 

On second and seven, Vikings’ quarterback Jameson DeSola completed a 37-yard pass to Caracter for a touchdown. Laurel’s Patrick Belle blocked the extra point to keep his team up, 14-13, with 7:50 left.

Laurel answered with a scoring drive, starting at their own 45. Wilson had four runs for 23 yards to move the ball to the St. Elizabeth 27. Wilson added five more carries for 25 yards, including a four-yard touchdown run. Gonzalez-Perez’s extra point extended Laurel’s lead to 21-14 (2:42).

St. Elizabeth moved the ball to the Laurel 44 on its next possession before the Bulldogs’ defense stirred things up. Belle forced a fumble as he sacked the quarterback and Damontra Smith recovered the ball and ran it back 45 yards for a game-sealing touchdown. The extra point put Laurel up, 28-13, with 31 seconds remaining and that’s all she wrote.

When the Bulldogs needed first downs, they turned to their workhorse back, Wilson.

“They were taking away the option with me so we let Kylse do his thing,” Shockley said.

“We executed really well. The offensive line down in the trenches, they did their thing,” said Wilson. “We showed more heart at the end.”

The Bulldogs’ senior class went out with a 13-0 record this season, picking up their second straight state title.

 “I don’t know if they could give us much more. It’s been a fun ride,” Jones said of his seniors.