LAUREL -- It took just over a quarter, but the Laurel Locomotives finally worked up enough steam to blow their way past Lewistown 48-0 in the first-round of the Class A football playoffs at the Laurel Sports Complex on Friday.
“We definitely weren’t happy with the way we were playing football early in the game,” said Laurel coach Mike Ludwig. “We had a lot of missed opportunities in that first half but I was very happy with the intensity we showed in the second half.”
Michael Buster ran for 121 yards and three scores to lead Laurel as it turned a healthy 21-0 halftime lead into an insurmountable blowout over a six-plus minute span in the third-quarter, thwarting any comeback plans the Eagles may have had.
As a team, Laurel rushed for 390 yards on 52 attempts as it wore down the Eagles' defense.
After Mitch Kaufman capped a six-play scoring drive to open the second half with a 27-yard dash, the Locomotives turned a pair of Lewistown fumbles -- both on kickoffs -- into touchdowns. Kaufman added 105 rushing yards for Laurel.
“I thought the kids did a great job of coming out and getting a scoring drive to start the half,” Ludwig said. “That was big for us to get that momentum back and start playing the way we like.”
The Locomotives appeared to be sleepwalking through the opening quarter before a timeout -- and a passionate pep talk to the offensive huddle from assistant coach Matt Kimmett -- got them going.
“Our tempo wasn’t good at all,” said quarterback Tyler Thompson. “He basically told us to pick it up. We had them on the ropes a few times and we’d let them hang around with a penalty or bad play.”
Six plays later, Thompson found Buster in the back corner of the end zone for the first of three touchdown tosses for the 6-foot, 160-pound junior.
“I thought Tyler did an excellent job tonight of running our offense,” Ludwig said. “He ran the option well and threw the ball effectively and made good decisions.”
While the outcome was decided early, Lewistown hung around for much of the first half behind a gritty performance from quarterback James Derheim, who was under constant pressure from the Laurel defense.
Derheim, a junior, completed 8 of 15 passes in the first half for 111 yards but was intercepted -- the first of two picks by Caje Golden -- late in the second half on a pass in the end zone on a second-and-goal situation.
Derheim finished the night 12 of 22 for 149 yards.
Lewistown, who qualified for the playoffs after starting the season 0-6 by winning their final two games of the season, ended its season 2-7.
Laurel advanced to a quarterfinal matchup at top-ranked and top-seeded Dillon next Saturday at noon.
Laurel turned the ball over twice in a 26-7 home loss to the Beavers back in September.
“We were able to play Dillon earlier in the season and I think we were able to take some good things from that game,” Ludwig said. “We want to play perfect every time we step on the field and if we want to keep playing past next week we’ll need to do that.”
“Dillon’s a great team,” he said. “We can’t beat ourselves.”