The Laney football team returned to the field Saturday night without several program icons. No more Dominque Walker. No more Robert Dunn. Or Wayne Canty. Or Corvey Irvin.
Those faces weren't missed too much Saturday night in the season opener against Butler. The Wildcats ran through a banner before kickoff that said: "Face it. We're still here."
Laney hammered home the point time and again against Butler. The Wildcats led by 36 at the half on the way to a 43-0 season-opening win at ARC Stadium.
The game was played with a running clock in the second half, but it was more than enough time to let the Wildcats check off all the necessary ingredients for a blowout. Laney blocked a punt. It rolled to 234 yards of total offense in the first half, and the Wildcats scored 22 points in the second quarter.
Junior Devin Larmond had two interceptions. He returned one for a 70-yard score that was wiped out with a penalty.
It wasn't needed on this night.
Junior signal caller Chris Thomas showed a steady hand in replacing Walker at quarterback. He completed three of his first four passes for 60 yards.
His 35-yard strike to senior Kenneth Walker was the first time Laney jumped out of its base Wing-T set into a four- wideout look.
That looked like the same old quick-strike Laney. But it was an aberration of the opening win.
This time, the Wildcats ripped off 178 of those 238 first-half yards on the ground.
The backfield-by-committee approach was applied with impressive results. Laney needed only 19 carries but used seven different runners to pile up the yardage behind a line featuring two three-year starters.
Walker added the second score of the night on a 2-yard plunge. The blocked punt set up a short drive that was capped by a 9-yard scoring run from junior Rafael Holden.
Laney had its only punt of the first half on its next series. But Larmond's second interception on consecutive Butler series resulted in a 43-yard scoring run by senior fullback Jeremy Singleton.
The stocky Singleton proved to be the unlikely breakaway threat of the night. He needed only three carries to net 71 first-half yards, and he finished with 101.
The only bright spot for the Bulldogs came on the opening possession. Butler (0-1) drove to the Laney 11 aided by a 34-yard scramble by senior quarterback Jawuan Luckey and a facemask foul on Laney.
The drive stalled, and Butler kicker Cody Swartz missed a 28-yard field goal try.
Both teams sat perhaps their best overall player. Laney defensive tackle Tim Wright did not suit up because the team didn't want to risk infection to a recent stitching of a wound on his forehead.
The Bulldogs went without fullback Damien Bell. He missed school Friday, and wasn't allowed to dress because of school attendance policy.
Reach Jeff Sentell at (706) 823-3425 or firstname.lastname@example.org.