by Thomas Spencer
Two powerful, dominant, undefeated teams, Hamilton and Laurel, faced off in the class “A” state championship game in Laurel on Saturday. The strength of the Broncs’ running game and the potential of senior quarterback Tyson Rostad were on full display as the Broncs came out on top 21-7. A strong wind blew all day, forcing both teams to rely on their rushing attacks, and in the end it was Hamilton who controlled the ground and won the game.
Hamilton was forced to punt on their opening drive and Laurel took over at the Broncs’ forty-yard-line. After three short runs the Broncs squashed Laurel on a 4th and short.
Taking over around the thirty-yard-line, Rostad picked up the first down, the first of the day. Rostad led the way on the rest of the drive, accounting for the majority of the rushes and ending with a powerful four-yard touchdown run, his 20th touchdown of the year.
The ensuing Locomotive drive featured a series of rushes as the Trainmen marched the ball to the Broncs’ twenty-yard-line. Senior running back Beau Dantic then converted on a fourth and short to give the Trainmen a new set of downs on the Broncs’ 10-yard-line. After three failed plays the Broncs once again stopped the Locomotives on fourth down, knocking down a pass in the end zone.
The Broncs took over at their own ten-yard line but were unable to move the ball and had to punt. With the ball back, the Locomotives took over at mid-field and moved down the field with a mix of run and pass until Dantic scored on a short run, knotting the game at 7-7 in the second quarter.
On their next possession, the Broncs leaned on Rostad as they moved the ball down the field, converting on a big 4th and inches at midfield. And after a nice run by Tyson Bauder, the Broncs, yet again, went to Rostad, who faked the hand-off to Tim Zohner and was off to the races. A couple of broken tackles and thirty yards later, the senior quarterback was celebrating on the purple “L” of the Laurel endzone for his second score of the game. The point after was good and the Broncs led 14-7 at halftime.
A squib kick by the Broncs started the second half and gave the Locomotives the ball on the thirty-yard line. Due to strong winds and strong defensive play by the Broncs, the Locomotives were unable to move the ball and were forced to punt, giving Hamilton the ball at their own 10 yard line.
On their ensuing possession the Broncs turned to Zohner who made some nice runs. The Broncs converted a big fourth and three on their own forty-yard-line as coach Bryce Carver gambled and went to his reliable senior quarterback who picked up the first down. But the drive stalled on a fourth and nine play in the red zone as a halfback pass was unsuccessful, giving the ball back to the Locomotives on the thirty-yard line.
On the ensuing drive the Broncs defense came up big with a crushing stop by Liam O’Connell, and then on a third and five Taylor Searle matched a Laurel receiver step for step and picked off the pass. This set up the offense at their own 30 yard line with a couple of seconds left in the third quarter.
The Broncs began the final quarter with the ball and a one-score lead. The Broncs then went back to Rostad, who blasted an inside seam and just refused to go down on a third and short. With a pile of Bronc blockers in front of him, it was only many yards later that the Trainmen managed to take down Rostad. Later in the drive, on a crucial 4 and 4, the Broncs asserted their running dominance and picked up the first down. A series of strong running got the Broncs to the 10 yard line and Rostad blasted straight up the gut behind two lead blockers and forced his way into the endzone. With 6:34 left in the fourth, the Broncs held a commanding lead 21- 7, which they were able to maintain for the win.
In the state championship game the Broncs adapted to the windy conditions and could not be stopped on the ground. This dominant running game had two important implications. First, the Broncs were able to completely control the game clock. Second, the line of scrimmage was in complete control by the Broncs.
Congratulations to Coach Bryce Carver who won his 51st game as head coach. This game marks the first football title since the late 1990s for Hamilton.