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Central vs. Laurel

Laurel's Kolby Gibbs heads the ball during the Locomotives' 2-0 victory over the Billings Central Rams in the Class A girls soccer state championship match at Wendy's Field at Rocky Mountain College on Saturday.

BILLINGS — We get it. You start reading again about the Billings Central-Laurel domination of Class A girls soccer the past few years and your eyes probably start to glaze over.

Six consecutive title appearances for Laurel … five straight years now the Rams and Locomotives have met in the title match … they’ve combined to win the past 12 Class A titles … on and on and on.

Well, here’s a number that even Laurel coach Aloma Jess hadn’t considered: 0.

That’s the number of goals the Locomotives have conceded in the past three championship matches to arguably the most prolific offensive program in Class A girls soccer. Laurel beat Central 2-0 in 2017; last year’s match ended 0-0 after regulation and overtime before the Rams won in PKs; and Saturday, the Locomotives reclaimed the title with another 2-0 win.

Three consecutive championship clean sheets against a program that featured Montana’s career goal scoring leader in Morgan Ferestad and the career assist leader in Zoie Althoff the past four seasons.

When it was brought to Jess’s attention, a look of sudden realization crossed her face.

“I had to stop and think about that for a minute,” she said, standing on Wendy’s Field at Rocky Mountain College as “We Are the Champions,” blared through a speaker after the Locomotives’ championship win Saturday. “I’d say that’s probably the icing on the cake that I had actually overlooked a little bit.”

Nolan Trafton is in his first season as the Rams’ head coach, but he’s been around the Central program for all these previous championship dust-ups as an assistant coach at Central. While he conceded Laurel played well Saturday, he also said his Rams didn’t faithfully execute what they’d been able to do all season. He also didn’t seem all that surprised that the Rams have gone scoreless in championship matches the last three seasons.

“When you put the two best teams in the state against each other, you’re not going to get a lot of goal-scoring,” he reasoned. “That first game that we had against them this year was just a fluke, to have a 5-3 finish. To have eight goals in one game is kind of uncommon for our two teams.”

Junior Kolby Gibbs is among the Locos’ defenders who has helped record those shutouts over the past three seasons. She’s been starting on the back line since she was a freshman.

“I just think it’s amazing what we do,” said Gibbs, whose tone was more of wonderment than boastfulness. “I’d say we’re good, but I didn’t think in all of our years of playing it’d be like this every year. It’s amazing to me.”

How many more years of amazing do the Locos have in them? After all, Sammi Spitzer was the only senior on the team’s roster, so things should come easily for Locos the next several years.

Right? Jess could only laugh at the insinuation.

“Every season is different,” she said. “People develop and personalities grow. Every year you just have to take it from day one and figure out what kind of team you’re going to be. You can’t assume that it’s going to be just like last year. It’s always very different. It’s ever-changing.”

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Email Mike Scherting at mike.scherting@406mtsports.com or follow him on Twitter at @GazSportsSchert

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