LAUREL — Considering the history it carried, it was more unpredictable than emphatic.

That didn’t matter to Ethan Meccage.

“I’ll take goals like that all day long,” said the Laurel senior.

Meccage’s first-half goal was enough for the Locomotives to defeat Billings Central 1-0 at a windy Laurel Sports Complex early Saturday afternoon.

The goal gave Laurel its first Eastern A regular-season championship in program history.

“So many of our seniors have played together for a long time,” said Locomotives coach Leroy Vanderpool. “Finally, this is their year.”

Billings Central's girls earned a measure of revenge with a 2-0 morning win over the Locomotives. Zoie Althoff scored both goals in the first half.

Laurel defeated the Rams 5-3 exactly a week ago in Billings.

The two teams, which have played in the last four Class A state championship matches, are tied for the Eastern A lead with the Rams holding the edge on goal differential against Livingston, according to Central coach Nolan Trafton.

Both teams play the Rangers this week.

Laurel boys 1, Central 0

Even when it left his foot, Meccage wasn’t sure if the ball would end up in the back of the net.

Meccage took a pass from Noah Berg along the left side and angled a shot to the lower right-hand corner that eluded Central keeper Myles Ragar.

“I sliced it weird off my right foot,” said Meccage, who had two goals in Laurel’s 4-3 win over Central last week. “I barely nicked it. I was kind of surprised it went in.

“It (the win) means a lot. We’ve been working really hard for this. It’s special to be part of the first team to get it done.”

Laurel has 10 seniors on the roster this season.

The strong west-east wind altered shots and passes throughout the matches.

“It was tough,” said Vanderpool. “I think the biggest thing was the boys stayed calm and cool. We were hoping for the wind on the flip and we got it so we got our side. I think that was a big factor. It’s always tough on both sides.”

Central girls 2, Laurel 0

It was the first match back at the Laurel Sports Complex for Mya Hansen, who transferred from Laurel to Central this past summer.

“A little bit weird, just different,” said the sophomore keeper of the return to the pitch where she played previously. “You have to take it as just another game, another road trip.”

And Hansen made sure she was in the right locker room. “Just follow the green and white,” she said.

Althoff, who is approaching the Central career assists record, opened the scoring with a penalty kick 6:08 into the match.

She followed 12 minutes later, finishing a corner kick at the front of the net.

With the wind in their face, the Rams defense held strong in the second half.

“We adapted to the conditions,” Trafton said. “We worked the midfield well and finished good opportunities."

Althoff almost had a hat trick, booming a 28-yard shot off the right post in the second half.

Laurel had the wind advantage in the second half, putting more pressure on Hansen.

“The wind is a big factor,” she said. “The ball definitely comes harder at me with the wind pushing it. You have to watch the curve of the ball and the spin.”

With a strong defense in front of her, Hansen had four saves in the second half and the Rams were able to turn away two Laurel corner kicks.

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Email Joe Kusek at joe.kusek@406mtsports.com or follow him on Twitter at @GazSportsJoe

Sports writer at the Billings Gazette

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