Laurens Academy clinched a spot in the SCISA Class 1A 8-man playoffs Friday night with a 32-20 victory over visiting Newberry Academy at Todd Kirk Field.
Garrett Murphy ran for 155 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries before exiting the game late in the first half due to an injury, but it was enough to hand the Crusaders an early lead they were able to make stand up.
With LA (4-6 overall, 2-2 Region 4-1A) missing one of its top playmakers in Murphy, head coach Jolly Doolittle once again turned to a group of younger players to help the Crusaders across the finish line.
“Our young guys stepped up and played well again,” Doolittle said.
Quarterback Ethan Collins completed 12 of 23 passes for 101 yards with a touchdown to fellow frosh Caleb Hardy. Hardy scored twice – once on the touchdown reception and on a touchdown run – while recording five catches for 64 yards and 42 yards on seven rushes.
Collins’ only rush turned into a 60-yard touchdown scramble that helped LA put the game away in the second half.
LA led 32-12 before Newberry added a fourth-quarter touchdown.
Senior Hector Rubio added 51 yards on seven carries and sophomore Nathan Bell had 18 carries for 69 yards as LA rolled up 375 yards on the ground and 476 yards of total offense.
Bell also led the Crusaders’ defense with 12 tackles, including three for loss, and a fumble recovery, and sophomore Garrison Vaughan added 10 stops.
The Crusaders defeated the Eagles (2-8, 0-5) for the second time this season, coupling Friday night’s region win with a 58-0 non-region victory on Sept. 1.
LA is to finish its regular season this Friday at Richard Winn Academy. The region contest is also the second meeting this season against Richard Winn. Winn defeated LA 54-14 in a non-region game on Aug. 28.
Doolittle said the Crusaders will be on the road in the first round of the playoffs, most probably at the winner of Friday night’s game between Jefferson Davis Academy and Holly Hill Academy, which will determine the top seed for the 8-man playoffs.