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Mustangs gallop past Cougars

UNIONTOWN — Before Thursday, Laurel Highlands sophomore Jared Jodon had never taken a snap, but his lack of experience wasn’t evident, as the young quarterback passed for 214 yards and a touchdown in the Mustangs’ 35-6 Keystone Conference win over visiting Yough.

Jodon got the call after a disciplinary action stemming from an in-school incident sidelined starting quarterback Andre Ramsey and defensive end J.T. Stefanik.

“The way we have been losing, that was just the icing on the cake,” Laurel Highlands head coach Scott Knee said of losing the two starters. Knee said he encouraged his team to “rally around Jared. He did an absolutely tremendous job running the offense tonight. I’m very, very proud of him and very, very proud of our team.”

Yough head coach Rich Bowen said the Mustangs recovered well from the loss of two significant players.

“I thought Laurel Highlands played well tonight, especially not having their starting quarterback and another starter,” Bowen said.

Knee said Jodon’s intelligence and self-assurance were the keys in his success, but it didn’t hurt that several of his teammates also turned in strong performances. Tim Hirsch scored four of the Mustangs’ five touchdowns, and Greg Palladino hauled in four receptions for 107 yards. Kenny Riddell was solid as a receiver, and Corey Nesser added his share of rushing yardage.

“We had kids step up, and that was the big thing,” Knee said. “It just took the pressure off (Jodon).”

Hirsch was the first player to come up big for the Mustangs, as he recovered a fumble on the third play of the Cougars’ opening drive. Six plays later, after a nice drive that included a 19-yard pass from Jodon to Nesser, Hirsch scrambled three yards for the score. Nesser ran in the two-point conversion.

After forcing Yough to punt, Laurel Highlands put together a long drive on the strength of its running game. The Mustangs got into a little trouble in the red zone, though, as they were flagged for holding at the Cougars’ 10. An incomplete pass and a delay of game penalty brought up fourth and 18 from the Yough 20-yard line. Jodon connected with Riddell on a 22-yard pass to get Laurel Highlands back in business, and Hirsch notched another three-yard touchdown run. The two-point pass failed, but Laurel Highlands still led, 14-0, at the end of the first quarter.

Late in the second quarter, a 25-yard pass from Jodon to Josh Guittap helped set up Hirsch’s third TD of the night. Jodon’s pass to Riddell was good, and the Mustangs held a 22-0 advantage at the half.

It took the team just three plays and a minute and a half to add to that lead in the third quarter. Nesser ran twice for short yardage before Palladino hauled in a rocket from Jodon and ran it all the way to the end zone for a 65-yard scoring play. Trent Boyer kicked the extra point.

Yough’s offense began to get a little something going after that, but the Mustangs’ defense eventually stalled the drive. The Cougars couldn’t do the same, though, as Hirsch capped a 15-play drive with a one-yard touchdown run. The kick failed, but the 35-point margin was still enough to put the mercy rule into effect.

Under a running clock and with a comfortable lead, Knee gave his young players some experience. Yough had a little more luck against those players. The team stuck to its ground game and crept up on the goal line, and with just less than three seconds to play, Ryan Allen ran in from a yard out to get the Cougars (0-3, 0-5) on the board.

Laurel Highlands (1-1, 1-4) will visit Derry next week.


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