For one night only, the Tornadoes were Dragons.
Commemorating the last graduating class of Oak Park High School in 1970, Laurel took the field Friday night “Between the Bricks” in blue jerseys with the word “Dragons” printed above the numbers. Breathing fire against Mustangs’ offense near and inside the red zone, Laurel stunned West Jones 19-13 to take sole possession of first place in Region 3-5A.
“Speechless,” said Laurel head coach Ryan Earnest. “That’s a great football team across the field, and we were able to beat a great football team tonight.”
West Jones threatened to score on multiple occasions inside Laurel territory and in the red zone. Still, the defense held their ground, forcing two turnovers on downs in the second half and intercepted West Jones' Alan Follis at or beyond the goal line on three separate occasions - twice in the second half.
"We're getting healthy at the right time. I'd go to war anytime with those guys right there," added Earnest as he looked toward his team celebrating on the field and the sidelines."
Neither offense could get things going in the run game, especially in the first half. At the break, West Jones accumulated just 28 yards on 19 carries to Laurel’s six yards on 13 carries.
"We put [the game] on our quarterback," said Earnest. "He made some throws, and [our receivers] made some great catches. We got big plays out of our guys that stepped up."
Laurel answered West Jones’ early 10-0 lead with 13 unanswered points in the first and second quarter on a 72-yard pass from senior quarterback Dexter Scott to senior wide receiver Kanarius Johnson and a pick-six by defensive lineman William McCullum.
West Jones tied the game at 13-all on a 26-yard field goal by Joseph Hernandez late in the first half.
What turned out to be the game-winning score came early in the second half when Scott raced into the end zone from 31 yards out on Laurel's first offensive drive.
"We wanted to take what they gave us," said Earnest. "[Our goal was to] be patient, and try to move the chains. Shoutout to our offensive staff for a great game plan. God is good."
More on the special night from a Laurel School District press release:
A special night here Between the Bricks.I’ll reply to this tweet to explain the video. pic.twitter.com/TXus4QtuY8— James Pugh (@jpughinreallife) October 16, 2020
“The 2020 Legacy game was played Sept, 18 LHS vs. Wayne County, but due to a COVID-19 factory shutdown, the blue football jerseys did not arrive in time, so the players wore a dragon sticker on their helmets. The jerseys arrived this week, and as a surprise to the Laurel fans, the senior football players elected to wear the blue jerseys at tonight's game.
"The year 2020 marks 50 years since the last graduating class of Oak Park High School received their diplomas and went on to change the world. As half of a century has passed, the story has the potential to fade away. Still, we want the 50th year to mark the beginning of a new tradition – the tradition of recognizing the story and dedicating ourselves to honoring the legacy within the children of the Laurel School District, so they will understand whose shoulders they stand upon.
"This year, the Laurel School District will implement a unit of study dedicated to the history of Oak Park so that present and future generations will be inspired by this great story of how the school was established as a beacon of academia for Laurel's black community. Additionally, every sports season, we will host a Legacy Night where our sports teams will wear blue to bring awareness and honor to the great Oak Park story.
“The children of today can now become doctors, Olympians, musicians, singers, historians, military leaders, mayors, teachers, radio personalities, city council members, restaurant owners, and more, all because an Oak Parkite paved the way.”
Laurel (3-3 overall, 3-0 in Region 3-5A) travel to Brookhaven next Friday night in region play.
West Jones (5-1 overall, 1-1 in Region 3-5A) will host Natchez in region play next Friday night in Soso.