By Hunter Nusz

The Laurel Bulldogs defeated the Caesar Rodney Riders 24-19 in a game in which Laurel had control, but the Riders wouldn’t go down easily. 

Laurel started the game on offense and immediately started driving down the field with chunk runs from seniors Patrick Belle and Xavier Limehouse. The drive was finished off with a five-yard Belle touchdown run, giving the Bulldogs a 7-0 lead. 

Laurel quarterback Koby Shockley goes under center as Laurel tries to run out the clock in last Friday’s home win over Caesar Rodney. Photo by Hunter Nusz

The story of the first half had to be the Laurel defense, not allowing the Riders to get into a groove. The Riders would move the ball down the field but when it came to crunch time the Bulldogs defense stiffened up.

 Laurel head coach Joey Jones had this to say about his defense, “Continue playing the way you are, continue playing with urgency and the team effort. We’ve said for five years, 11 hats to the ball, and keep your foot on the gas.” 

The second quarter was full of mistakes from both teams, those mistakes being fumbles. At the start of the quarter, Laurel fumbled the snap on a fourth and six. They were able to fall on it, but the damage was done. 

Caesar Rodney followed the lead by fumbling the ball back to Laurel on the next drive. Then with Laurel driving down the field, the Bulldogs fumbled the ball back to Caesar Rodney. 

After the turnover exchange, Laurel got a drive going and capped it off with a quarterback run by Koby Shockley. The resulting kickoff was taken by Kasson Bay of Caesar Rodney, and he was able to take it all the way to the Laurel 24. The drive was capped off by a 10-yard touchdown pass from Julius Timmons to Aiden Cain making the half-time score 14-7. 

Caesar Rodney started the second half with the ball, and they opened up the half with a backward pass that was recovered by Laurel’s Shakai Parker. Laurel took advantage of the turnover with another touchdown run by Belle, making the score 21-7. 

Later in the quarter, Laurel had the ball on the doorstep threatening to blow the game open but Caesar Rodney stood their ground with a goal line stand forcing Laurel to attempt a field goal which was made, increasing the lead to 24-7 going into the fourth quarter. 

The fourth quarter is when things got interesting. Caesar Rodney started off the quarter by finishing a long drive with another Timmons to Cain connection for a touchdown this time for 16 yards, the extra point was blocked still making it a two-score game 24-13. 

Laurel started to pound the rock and run out the clock but with 9:34 to go the Bulldogs fumbled and put Caesar Rodney back in business. The Riders failed to capitalize on that gift but shortly after punting the ball back to Laurel, the Bulldogs fumbled again giving the ball back to the Riders. 

This time Caesar Rodney was able to convert the turnover into points with another 16-yard touchdown pass from Timmons this time to Maxwell Viddy, the Rider’s two-point conversion failed making the score 24-19 with 5:38 left to go in the game. 

Laurel again used big chunk runs to kill the clock and get into Caesar Rodney territory, but the stingy Riders’ defense forced Laurel to attempt a field goal with one minute to go. The kick was hit wide, and the Riders had the ball with no timeouts but a chance to win the game. 

The Riders attempted to air the ball out which had worked for them most of the game, but this time the Bulldog’s defense held firm. One final heave from Timmons into the night sky bounced off a Laurel defender and onto the ground giving the Bulldogs the 24-19 victory. 

“Just keep plugging away, and as we shared at the end that was a team win,” said coach Jones. “We had a lot of guys step in, a lot of guys that didn’t expect to play and they got their chance tonight.” 

Laurel’s next game is Sept. 22 at home against Caravel Academy.