JAMES CITY — Even if they'd had all-state quarterback Darren Owens, Brunswick County High's Bulldogs figured to have only a puncher's chance at best on their visit to play Lafayette on Friday at Wanner Stadium. Without him, they had no chance.
With Owens, who accounted for more than 2,700 yards and 42 touchdowns in 2013, watching from the sidelines, Lafayette's defense was punishing and dominant. The Rams' offense was plenty good, too, as Lafayette opened the season with a 41-0 victory.
Brendan McGinty led the Rams with three touchdown runs and a touchdown pass. Linebacker Derrick Harris starred on a defense that limited the Bulldogs to 56 yards, just 34 on the ground in 31 attempts.
"It's win-win," Rams coach Andy Linn said. "We won, no one got injured and I've got two weeks to get us ready for our next game."
Because Brunswick graduated 24 players from a team that came within a second of the Group 2A state title in 2013, it faced an uphill battle from the moment Owens broke his hand in practice Wednesday. Lafayette's defense showed no mercy, stopping the Bulldogs for losses or no gain on 15 of their first 25 plays.
After the Rams dropped the Bulldogs for losses on their first three plays, Deacon Smith added insult to injury by blocking a punt to give Lafayette the ball 5 yards from the end zone. Smith ran that distance on the Rams' first play from scrimmage to give them a 7-0 lead.
Two plays after the irrepressible Harris forced a fumble that linebacker Matt Hummel recovered, the Rams stretched the lead to 14-0 as Brendan McGinty passed 53 yards to Brandon Villanueva-Pernell on the fly for a TD.
"We carried out our assignments and played as a team," Harris said of the defense.
While the Rams' vaunted rushing attack managed a respectable 213 yards, spread out among 12 ball-carriers, the passing attack was the eye-opener.
McGinty's 32-yard completion to Villanueva-Pernell was the highlight of a nine-play drive that the Rams' quarterback capped with a 2-yard TD run. He then passed to Trey Neville for two points to stretch the lead to 22-0 with 7:38 left in the half.
McGinty completed three passes to Villanueva-Pernell for 97 yards in the first half. McGinty completed two more to Neville for 16 yards to help set up his 9-yard TD run that gave the Rams a 28-0 lead at intermission.
"That was the result of a lot of work with Brendan over the summer," Villanueva-Pernell said of their pass-catch connection. "We worked on our timing and his precision on his passes, and it worked out perfectly."
Linn said, "I understand we passed more in the first half than we usually do in three games, but don't get carried away. I've got targets now.
"Tyreke Graham is 6-foot-4, Trey is 6-4, V-P gets the ball in his hands and he's dangerous, and Brendan is a very underrated quarterback. A lot of people think he is just a Wing-T guy, but he can throw the ball."
And run it, as McGinty showed in scoring two short touchdowns in the second half. With Owens on the sideline, the Bulldogs had no such weapon against a Lafayette defense that sent players to the ball in numbers.
"That was a real big loss," Brunswick coach Harold Williams said. "When you lose a third-year starter, it affects the confidence level of guys playing in their first varsity game."
O'Brien can be reached by phone 757-247-4963.
LAFAYETTE 41, BRUNSWICK COUNTY 0
Brunswick.....0....0....0....0 - 0
Lafayette.....14....14....7....6 - 41