BELTON — Kearney running back Garrett Laughlin made his way to the sideline following another big run. His coach had a message for him.
“We’re going to keep feeding you,” Bulldogs coach Josh Gray recalled telling Laughlin.
“You know I can take it,” Laughlin responded.
With a solid push up front, Laughlin tallied 240 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns to help the Bulldogs to a 38-7 nonconference victory over Belton on Friday, Oct. 4, at Belton High School.
“He brings a passion for the game and just another level of play for us,” Gray said of Laughlin. “The guys thrive on that. He’d be the first one to tell you that if it weren’t for the offensive line or receivers he wouldn’t be able to do what he does.”
In winning its third straight game, Kearney now sits at 4-2 and 2-1 in Suburban Blue. The Bulldogs travel to Grain Valley (3-3, 2-2) Friday, Oct. 11.
“It’s no different than any other game,” Gray said. “The importance level with this game coming up is no different than the next week.”
The Bulldogs overcame a slow start against Belton, who fell to 0-6. Kearney trailed 7-0 after the first quarter. The Bulldogs took its first lead of the night at the 5:05 mark of the second quarter on a Jacob Stevens 15-yard touchdown catch from Ian Acosta, eventually taking a 10-7 lead into halftime.
“We tried to feel out what was going on,” Gray said. “The first half wasn’t as effective as we would’ve liked to have seen, but the second half we took care of business and were able to take over.”
And quite quickly. Laughlin scored just a little more than a minute into the third on a 41-yard run. Then, Acosta found Stevens once again, this time for a 58-yard connection with 3:23 left in the third for a 24-7 lead.
Acosta and Laughlin ran for the other two touchdowns to cap the scoring, while Braxton Breedlove scored their first points on a 28-yard field goal.
Acosta threw for 106 yards and two touchdowns and ran for another score. Stevens caught three passes for 81 yards and two scores.
Gray said he saw his offensive line — center Evan Pace, tackles Evan Miles and Kade Dunlap, and guards Hayden Page, Jesus Reuscher and Kyle Midkiff — improve.
“Our offensive line played pretty dang good, a lot more consistent,” Gray said. “We’re definitely going in the right direction with those guys. That crew is still jelling and working together. They’ve bought in and they’re a solid unit.”
Defensively, the Bulldogs held an opponent under 10 points for the first time this season. Buster Lawrence registered an interception.
“We were able to hold them out of the end zone quite a few times after a big play,” Gray said. “To only give up seven points I’m pretty proud of the defensive effort and pretty much shutting them down.”