WILLIAMSBURG — As Lafayette High football coach Andy Linn watched his team warm up on the Cooley Field grass on sunny Friday afternoon, he said the objective of the opening scrimmage would be to find play-makers.
The challenge for Linn following a dominant offensive showing against King William will be dividing up the touches among what appears to be another deep group of skill players. The offense scored five touchdowns, while the defense added another as the Rams outscored the Cavaliers six touchdowns to three overall.
Those were welcome numbers for an offense that lost some serious firepower from the Group 3A state quarterfinal team that went 12-1 and scored 608 points a year ago. The most noteworthy graduation losses were at running back, where Jahlil Green 2,027 yards, 34 touchdowns) and Schekel Wallace (925 yards, 14 TDs) combined for more than 3,000 yards rushing.
"The big thing was finding running backs because we graduated all three," Linn said, noting that Darren Patton averaged 10.3 yards on his 29 attempts a year ago. "We had eight or nine guys run the ball today, and I was happy with all of them."
No Ram had more than five carries, but seven of the nine with rushing attempts had 20 or more yards. Linn said coming into the game that Deacon Smith has looked good in practice, and it showed as he netted almost 40 yards on his three carries.
Sophomore Kyle Johnson flashed potential by totaling 45 yards on his three attempts, a 21-yard touchdown included. Joey Kraegenbrink had the splashiest night, running for touchdowns of 41 and 20 yards on his only two carries.
"Everybody knows Jahlil, Schekel and Darren have all left and people are saying we're not going to be as good," Kraegenbrink said. "It feels good to prove people wrong and get out there and score touchdowns just like they did."
While running the ball is almost an obsession with the Rams, they might possess as good a passing attack in the district if they choose to use it. There isn't a more experienced starting quarterback in the Bay Rivers than Brendan McGinty, whose favorite target, Brandon Villanueva-Pernell, is among the best players in the league.
McGinty completed passes of 15 and 38 yards to Villanueva-Pernell, and had a 23-yard TD pass to Derrick Harris, who made a nice finger-tip catch on the run to the end zone. But the big play-maker to emerge for the Rams against King William was Tyrek Graham.
Graham, a 6-foot-4, 205-pound junior who hasn't played football since seventh grade, had a 17-yard reception early. Later, he out-jumped a defensive back to nab a 14-yard score in the corner of the end zone on a fade route.
"The whole time through my mind was 'I want this, I want this,' " Graham said of leaping for the ball. "I just took it from him."
That came shortly after he had returned an interception 37 yards down the right sideline for a touchdown. The moment he made the pick, Graham flashed his index finger in the "No. 1" signal, then ran the ball in.
He quickly learned that's a no-no in a program that prides itself on never showing up an opponent.
"I put it up and Coach (Linn) chewed me out," Graham said.
Linn joked, "I told him if he did that again I'd break that finger."
The defense got burned on a few long passes by the King William spread, but benefited from some nice hits against the run by linebackers Smith and Matt Hummel. The offensive line was physical and effective as always, despite some injuries.
"Our starting center (Charlie Woollum) didn't play (because of a sore ankle) but it's good deal when you can move a guy (Coleman Goad) who was an all-state center back to there," Linn said, noting Goad now plays guard. "Ian McManus (a guard) only played one series and (right tackle) Anthony Thorn only played two series because he's coming back from an ACL injury last year.
"The best thing about this scrimmage is that we didn't have any injuries."
O'Brien can be reached by phone at 757-247-4963.