Laurel 8, Woodbridge 6
Photos: Laurel defensive linemen Terren Hitchens (top), Eston Ennis (center), and Patrick Belle (below).
The Laurel High School football team took a giant step in turning the program around from its forgettable 1-9 record of last year.
In fact, the victory in their Henlopen Conference Southern Division opener gave the 2-3 Bulldogs more wins than they had in all of 2000.
"This was a huge win for us," said Laurel head coach Mike Pugh. "To go up there and win that thing, that's a huge win for us, especially after coming off the last two weeks against Dover (56-6 loss) and Hodgson (42-7 loss)."
Laurel drew first blood on a 3-yard run by Jeff Downes with 10 seconds left in the first half.
The Bulldogs went ahead 8-0 midway through the third quarter on a safety credited to Terren Hitchens, who tackled Woodbridge punter John Passwaters in the end zone after the punt snap flew over Passwaters' head.
Woodbridge tightened the score at 8-6 on a 51-yard run by quarterback Jamil Young early in the fourth quarter but one of many penalties against both teams nullified a successful two-point conversion run by Young that would have tied the score.
After that, Woodbridge's biggest threat came late in the game when it drove to the Laurel 33 only to be stopped by the Laurel defense.
Pugh said the difference between this week and the past two weeks was mental preparation. Although Archmere, Dover and Hodgson -- the three teams Laurel has lost to -- are 11-1 overall and could all end up in the playoffs, Pugh believes his team's mistakes had as much to do with the losses as the opposition.
"Dover and Hodgson are both excellent football teams." said Pugh, "but we just completely destroyed ourselves with turnovers and mistakes. We really emphasized the mental aspect of the game this week and leaving Dover and Hodgson behind.
"We said, 'Let's learn from it and sharpen ourselves mentally. We feel like we can play with anybody if we don't turn the thing over.' The kids responded well. They knew that the last two weeks were not indicative of the kind of team we are. They knew they were doing it to themselves, basically, and they were determined to correct things."
The Bulldogs presented a balanced attack with fullback Jamin Pugh leading the ground game with 89 yards on 17 carries. Halfback Jermel Horsey added 60 more yards on 18 carries.
Quarterback Andy Hartstein completed 7 of 10 passes for 68 yards including 4 completions to Jimmy Hartstein for 39 yards.
Defensively, the Bulldogs were led again by linebacker Jamin Pugh's 12 tackles. Defensive lineman Eston Ennis recorded 10 tackles, defensive back Jeff Downes had 9 tackles, and lineman Patrick Belle posted 8 tackles including a pair of sacks.
Tyler Downes intercepted a pass and Vernon Hill recovered a fumble.
Even during the past two seasons, when wins were hard to come by, Laurel always played Woodbridge tough. Two years ago, the Bulldogs lost by a single point in overtime. Last year, Woodbridge beat Laurel by three points.
"Every time we hook up, it's dog eat dog," said Pugh of the rivalry. "That's how it is in the Southern Division. Now that we're in conference, it will be that way every week."
The Bulldogs visit Indian River in another Southern Division game on Friday, Oct. 12, at 7:30 p.m.
Indian River is 0-4 following a 32-6 loss to Lake Forest in its Henlopen South opener on Friday, Oct. 5.
With the victory over Woodbridge, Pugh believes his team has as good a chance as any other to unseat Delmar for the Henlopen South crown.
"Last night was a big win for us because Woodbridge can beat any team in the South," said Pugh.
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