Cornell rallies past Laurel as QB Harrison surpasses 5,000-yard mark

Friday, October 11, 2019 | 11:17 PM

After a slow start, Cornell caught fire late in the first half and went on to defeat Laurel in a pivotal Big Seven game, 33-21, on Friday night.

After falling behind by 15 points early, the Raiders (6-1, 5-1) outscored the Spartans, 33-6, in the last 25 minutes to win their fourth straight game in conference play.

Cornell senior quarterback Zaier Harrison struggled early against a steady blitz but eventually connected on four touchdown passes to wide receiver Isaiah Langston.

Harrison, who came into the week with the seventh most passing yards in the WPIAL, finished 17 of 28 for 266 yards. He eclipsed the 5,000-yard mark for his career on his first completion.

Laurel (5-3, 3-2) scored on its first drive with 8 minutes, 5 seconds left in the first quarter on a 29-yard pass from Will Shaffer to Landon Esposito. It was a five-play, 55 yard drive that featured four Dom Wade runs for 21 yards. Wade finished with 102 yards rushing on 18 carries and a score.

The Spartans added to their lead with 3:26 left in the half when Dan Blank scored on a 3-yard run. The extra-point snap was poor but Maine recovered the snap and throw to Logan Ayres for the 2-point conversion, giving the Spartans the 15-0 lead.

But Cornell scored two late first-half touchdowns to gain much needed momentum heading into the break.

With 1:12 remaining in the second quarter, Cornell finally pierced the end zone on the first of the four TDs between Harrison and Langston, a 33-yard post pattern. After the failed 2-point attempt, the lead was cut to 15-6.

On the first play of Laurel’s ensuing drive, wide receiver Dylan Aquaro fumbled after catching a pass at the Spartan 49.

That fumble led to the play of the game. With no time left on the first-half clock, Harrison ran the ball in from 15 yards out. On the play, he leapt over two Spartan defenders at the goal line, cutting the Laurel lead to 15-12.

“That’s him (Harrison) — and that’s who he’s been for us for four years,” Cornell coach Ed Dawson said. “We put the ball in his hands, and he puts us on his back when he needs to.”

On the final drive before the half, Laurel committed two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties.

“We took too many unfortunate penalties. We had our opportunities to stop them but we just blew it,” Laurel coach Brian Cooper said. “I thought we did a lot of good things offensively, but they just were able to keep moving the ball, especially in the second half.”

The Harrison-Langston combination continued in the second half as they hooked up on passes of 45, 54 and 12 yards.

Langston finished with seven catches for 204 yards.

With the win, the Raiders maintain control of their playoff destiny. After a nonconference game in Week 8 against Greensburg Central Catholic, they play Our Lady of the Sacred Heart which could result with the winner getting second place in the conference and a playoff spot. A playoff appearance for Cornell would be their first since 2011.

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