to 3-0 Start
Laurel 19, Sussex Tech 14
Photos: Laurel quarterback Andy Hartstein (top), receiver Jeff Downes (middle), and running back Chris Horsey.
The Laurel High School football team proved its unbeaten record is no fluke with the nonconference victory.
Now 3-0 under first-year head coach Ed Manlove, the Bulldogs jumped out to a 19-0 halftime lead over the Division I Ravens and held the Ravens off in the second half.
The win was the second of the season for Laurel over a Division I opponent from the Henlopen Conference North Division. Those two wins could prove important for the Bulldogs in the Division II state tournament picture if they are unable to win the Henlopen South and the automatic state tournament berth that comes with that title.
"Our goal is to take one game at a time, but to win all of your games going into conference play gives the team confidence," said Manlove. "Our kids are working hard and focusing on what they have to do."
The Bulldogs built their halftime lead on a 1-yard plunge and a pair of long touchdown passes by quarterback Andy Hartstein. Hartstein connected on TD passes of 44 and 53 yards to Jeff Downes and Anton Ridley, respectively.
Tech never seriously threatened after that, as its final touchdown came with only 20 seconds to go in the game. Downes sealed Tech's fate for good by recovering the onsides kick after that TD.
Hartstein threw only 7 passes, but his 4 completions went for 154 yards. Running backs Chris Horsey and Jermel Horsey led the Bulldogs on the ground with 19 carries for 100 yards and 22 rushes for 86 yards, respectively.
"We try to mix it up in there," said Manlove of his team's balanced attack. "We don't want to be a team that throws it every time on third down. That's not very creative coaching. We just picked our spots where we thought we might be able to make something happen (passing the ball)."
The Laurel defense also came up big by holding Sussex Tech to just 19 yards of total offense in the first half and holding Tech's leading rusher, Kevin Maull, to only 13 yards on 9 carries, and quarterback Brandon Hudson to just 11 yards on 8 carries.
"We didn't do anything special defensively," said Manlove. "It was just a total team effort. Every time you saw the refs blow the whistle, all 11 of our guys were on the pile. We used our quickness against their size. We got off the ball and didn't allow them to get into us. We pretty much played fundamental defense."
Laurel's fast start is a stark contrast to the past few seasons. The Bulldogs started the 1999 campaign with an 0-3 record, the 2000 season with an 0-5 mark, and the 2001 campaign with a 1-3 record.
Laurel now prepares for its biggest game of the season as it travels a few miles down U.S. 13 to two-time defending Division II state champion Delmar on Friday, Oct. 4, at 7:30 p.m., in the Sussex County Online Game of the Week.
Delmar is unbeaten with a 4-0 mark this year including Friday's 35-14 victory over Forrestville (Md.). The Wildcats have won 27 straight games for the state's current longest winning streak.
Even though this will be Manlove's first game in the Henlopen South, he knows Delmar from the 36-7 loss it pinned on his Middletown team in the Division II state championship game last December.
"We're excited," said Manlove. "It's good for the community and the school. It's our first conference game and it just happens to be Delmar, but it's exciting because the kids still have a goal."
Delmar has won the last two games in this rivalry, 43-6 in 2001 and 40-18 in 2000. Laurel last beat Delmar 41-32 in 1999.
Manlove said defense is what has separated Delmar from other schools the past two years.
"Their defense makes things happen," said Manlove. "It always puts the offense in good field position. And then, the offense doesn't commit many turnovers. Delmar has won like seven million games in a row, and whenever they go out on the field, they expect to win."
Manlove believes the 3-0 start has also started to make his team expect to win every time out.
"I think our kids expect to win and they really, really want to win," said Manlove. "They have their goal and they're working really hard to get it."
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