By George Ferguson
The Laurel Locomotives completed a three-week journey that took them from Dillon to Whitefish and then to Havre to capture the Class A state football championship by knocking off the host Havre Blue Ponies 21-19 on Saturday afternoon before a sellout crowd at Blue Pony Stadium.
Laurel jumped on the Ponies 14-0 and used a solid rushing attack from quarterback Jeff Fisher and tailback Trevon Hegel en route to the close victory in which Laurel never trailed.
The Locomotives had to withstand a furious late fourth-quarter rally by the Ponies. Trailing 21-12, Havre scored a late touchdown with just under two minutes to play, but still found themselves behind by two points. The Ponies attempted an onside kick but Laurel's Zach Fox recovered the ball at the 40-yard line enabling the Locomotives' offense to run out the clock.
First-year Laurel head coach Mike Ludwig was elated with winning a state championship in his first year at the helm. He gave credit to all of his players for their magical run to the state title.
"It really hasn't sunk in yet but it feels wonderful right now," Ludwig said. "I have to give all the credit to our kids. They worked hard and believed in what we were trying to do and this is the end result of all that hard work."
The victory was the seventh straight win for Laurel, including three straight road victories in the playoffs. The Locomotives' last loss came in Havre on Sept. 28.
"We knew we were a better team than we showed the first time we played here," said senior quarterback Jeff Fischer. "It just took all of us to come together as a team and believe in each other and now we're state champions."
The Ponies were somewhat stifled by Laurel's defensive line and also had trouble bringing down the elusive Fischer and Hegel all day long.
"Laurel came out and really controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides of the football," said Havre High head coach Troy Purcell. "We couldn't really ever get into a rhythm on offense and they completely shut down our running game and that hurt us. You have to give them credit, they played a tremendous game offensively and defensively."
The Locomotives finish the season with a 9-3 record while the Ponies finish the season at 7-4.