LAUREL — Miles City played 47 minutes and 57 seconds of almost ideal football on Friday night. All that work had a chance to be ruined in the final three seconds.
But the Cowboys intercepted a Hail Mary as time expired to secure a 21-16 Eastern A win at Laurel. Miles City improved to 3-0 on the season, while the No. 3-ranked Locomotives dropped to 1-1.
“It means a lot,” Miles City senior lineman Tyler Harms. “This was probably our most anticipated game all season.”
The first half was full of big plays on third and fourth down.
Laurel attempted a fake punt midway through the first quarter, but Eli Aby overthrew fellow junior Jaxon Wittmayer on a wide-open pass.
On the next drive, Miles City quarterback Carson Hunter completed a 36-yard pass to fellow junior Jayden Venable on third and long. A couple minutes and 20 yards later, Hunter passed to senior Jess Bellows for a 6-yard touchdown on third and goal, giving the Cowboys a 7-0 lead.
Laurel’s special teams woes continued on the next drive, when Harms blocked a punt and recovered the ball in the end zone to make the score 14-0. It was Harms’ first career touchdown.
Laurel lined up to punt again late in the second quarter, and the snap sailed over the head of senior Ethan Renner, who picked the ball up and ran out of bounds for a large loss.
The Locomotives forced a fourth down and 12 on the ensuing drive, and Bellows converted it by leaping for a catch and holding onto the ball despite taking a big hit. Hunter scored a couple plays later on a 1-yard run to put the Cowboys ahead 21-0.
“Miles City’s got a good team. They’re physical, their quarterback’s good and they didn’t make very many mistakes,” said Laurel coach Mike Ludwig. “We made too many mistakes. Just kind of had a bad first half.”
Laurel scored on its first drive of the second half, but the score remained 21-6 until the final minute. Rather than risk giving up a touchdown on a punt, Miles City took a safety with 50 seconds to go. Laurel scored a touchdown on the following drive but needed 47 seconds to do so.
The Locomotives were faced with the near-impossible task of recovering an onside kick in less than three seconds, and they succeeded. Emmet Renner came down with the ball, and though the game clock read 0.0, the officials put one second left on the clock.
Aby fired the Hail Mary from about the 50 yard-line. It was tipped and landed in the hands of Miles City senior Jack Cline, securing the Cowboys’ second straight win over the Locomotives.
“We never gave up. We knew that anything could happen,” Bellows said. “Gotta fight till the last second.”