Patrick Laird hits hard when he’s on the football field. And that’s not only when he’s on defense.
The 6-foot, 205-pound Mission Prep running back, who also plays defensive back, had some powerful collisions carrying the ball Friday.
The result was typically an Immanuel defender flying backward and Laird pushing forward for more yards.
Laird tallied 277 yards rushing and scored his team’s first four touchdowns in a 35-7 rout on homecoming night for the Royals (5-1).
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“I had some great blocking from fullbacks Ben Zwarg and Carson Brown tonight,” Laird said. “The offensive line did a great job, too. Then when I got a defender in front of me, I was trying to run them over. Later, they got hesitant because of that, and I was going around them.”
Immanuel’s leading rusher, Khalil Montgomery, entered the game as the state’s third-leading rusher in all divisions with 1,405 yards on the season, averaging 234 yards per game, according to MaxPreps.com.
But Laird got the best of the running back battle as the Royals held Montgomery to 99 yards on 24 carries and kept him out of the end zone.
“We dominated the line of scrimmage tonight,” Mission Prep coach Chad Henry said. “We knew coming in that Montgomery was their big runner and our guys rose to the occasion. The yards he got were tough yards.”
The game was scoreless after one quarter before the Royals took control.
Henry said after some early drives that resulted in stops by the Eagles (4-3), Laird took it upon himself to carry the load.
“I think after we missed that first field goal and then we couldn’t get it going on the next drive, Patrick just decided to lower his shoulder into guys,” Henry said. “He really wanted it tonight and that fired up our guys.”
In addition to the big rushing night from Laird, Royals receiver Trevor Fernandez got his first action of the season after recovering from a broken collarbone in preseason.
Fernandez took a reverse handoff and ran for 20 yards on one of Mission Prep’s first offensive plays. Fernandez ran another play for 17 yards later in the game.
“Trevor has been itching to play, and I wanted to get him the ball early,” Henry said. “We’re going to need guys like Fernandez, Calvin Levisay, and Evan Talbert to balance our offense for the rest of the season as teams focus in on Laird.”
On defense, Levisay was one of the Royals’ leaders, making some big tackles and intercepting a tipped pass as well in the second half.
Levisay was part of a defensive unit that forced five turnovers, including three fumbles. One was a second half cough-up from Montgomery.
“We knew their running back was big, fast and strong,” Levisay said. “I thought we did a good job on him for the most part. We came in real fired up. We wanted to play well on homecoming night.”
Jack Balentine punched in the Royals other touchdown, a 4-yard run, with 5:34 left in the game.
After losing their first game in a blowout, the Royals have won five straight and remain atop the CIF-Southern Section Northeast Division poll.
But their road gets harder toward the end of the season as they face St. Margaret’s and Bishop Diego. Both were undefeated before Friday.
“We have a new identity this year,” Henry said. “We went from a spread offense to a run-heavy attack. But we’ve had more adversity to fight through so far this season. We have to get better at some things like having fewer penalties. But we’re in a good place right now.