LAUREL — As a precaution, Laurel quarterback Kyson Moran was held out of the second half of last week’s victory at Billings Central after taking a blow to the helmet. It wasn’t until Tuesday of this week that Moran was cleared to return.
Good thing for the Locomotives.
Moran had a big impact Friday as No. 2 Laurel gutted out a 21-7 victory over Eastern A rival Miles City at the LHS Sports Complex, running for two short touchdowns in the second half and intercepting a pass that shifted the momentum early.
“He’s a fighter,” Locomotives receiver Dalton Boehler said of Moran. “He came back this week and he knew this was a big game for us. He came out and battled for us.”
Laurel, the defending Class A state champion, improved its unbeaten record to 6-0. Miles City fell to 4-2 and saw its three-game winning streak snapped.
With a 7-0 lead coming out after halftime, Moran capped an important touchdown drive with a 1-yard run to put Laurel ahead by two scores. Moran scrambled for 11 yards facing a crucial third down a play earlier to set up the TD.
Running back Beau Dantic also had a key play earlier on the drive when he rushed four yards on fourth-and-3 to move the chains.
Moran iced the game late in the fourth quarter with another 1-yard touchdown run, this time after Dantic took a pitch on third down and raced 16 yards. Dantic finished the game with 129 yards on 26 carries, a week after a 28-carry, 198-yard effort against Central.
Laurel went to Dantic with the game on the line.
“The run he made at the end, Beau did a nice job of putting his foot in the ground and just making one cut and getting up the field,” Laurel coach Mike Ludwig said. “That was a huge play for us.”
Ludwig also said Moran had no misgivings despite being held out a week earlier.
“He wasn’t afraid to run,” Ludwig said. “It helps having a quarterback that’s athletic and can move and has some speed. It’s that bonus when nothing’s open and you can get down the field and pick up some yards.”
In the first quarter, Miles City marched the ball deep into Laurel territory and threatened to take the early lead. Moran, though, was part of a big momentum swing: After a Dalton Polesky touchdown pass was taken off the board due to an illegal-man-downfield penalty, Moran intercepted Polesky in the end zone to snuff out the threat.
Offensively, Ludwig said Laurel struggled to throw the ball in part to the exploits of defensive lineman Ben Glasscock, whose ball pursuit made life tough on the Locomotives’ offense. But Laurel still rushed for 233 team yards. Moran had 50 of those.
The Locomotives scored first in the second quarter on a two-yard run by Owen Wilcox. On the previous play, Wilcox sped 20 yards inside the 5.
Miles City’s only touchdown came on a great effort by Polesky in the third quarter. Pressured out of the pocket, Polesky rolled to his left and lofted a pass to wideout Jackson Whicker, who caught the ball and dove over the goal line to pull the Cowboys within 14-7.
But an onside kick was unsuccessful, and two other Miles City possessions failed to produce points in the fourth quarter.
The Cowboys took a big hit in the first half when standout running back and linebacker Dalton Tvedt suffered a right knee injury. Tvedt did not return, and was on crutches on the sideline for the remainder of the game.
Miles City coach Jeff Regan said Tvedt’s injury “didn’t look good,” and that the offensive game plan “went completely out the window. You saw those first two drives. He was dominating. He’s averaging over 100 yards rushing a game and he’s one of our best defensive players at inside linebacker. It was a huge loss. But I’m not using it as an excuse. It’s not an excuse.”
Polesky completed 18 of 32 passes for 146 yards. He also rushed for a team-high 31 yards.
“He gutted it out and kept us in the game. He was out there making plays,” Regan said. “But we became one dimensional, and we don’t like being one dimensional. He’s just a good player and a good leader.”
Laurel travels to Glendive next week, while Miles City hosts Sidney.