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In the fast Lane

Laney's Imeek Watkins evades the Pender defense during a game Saturday at Topsail High School in Hampstead. (Photo by Alan Cradick)

HAMPSTEAD | Laney already held the lead when junior quarterback Tariq Lane gathered the team's offense for its first snap of the regular season. The second-year starter gladly picked it up from there.

Junior Christian Cox returned the opening kick for a touchdown on Saturday against Pender, and Lane led six touchdown drives in as many first-half chances as Laney overwhelmed the Patriots, 48-24, at Topsail. After two dominant quarters, the Buccaneers rested their starters as the re-scheduled contest finished with a running clock.

"Just fireworks, really," Lane said of the fast start. "We knew we could put points up if we do what we do: control the tempo and execute. We knew today would be a good day."

Pender, the home team with its own field unplayable this weekend because of the recent rain, deferred after winning the coin toss. The move that allowed Laney (1-0) a memorable start to the season.

Coach Greg Ditz said he nearly took Cox off the return unit pregame in favor of a more capable returner, in case the Patriots kicked short. The 6-foot-2, 180-pound safety kept his spot, and the ball found him right away. After collecting it at the 33-yard line, he quickly reversed field and found room down the right side, sprinting untouched for the score.

Pender (0-1) then fumbled on its first play, and Lane got the offense humming. Junior Jeavonne Batts cashed in the turnover with a 10-yard touchdown run, and the Buccaneers scored five more touchdowns in the half. Only one scoring drive lasted more than five plays.

From the shotgun, Lane showed an ease running and passing, repeatedly gashing Pender for long gains. The signal caller hit on 7 of 9 passes for 120 yards and two touchdowns and rushed eight times for 102 yards and two more scores.

The first-team offense's final play of the half was a 38-yard touchdown pass from Lane to junior Jonathan Keubler that made it 48-0 with 17 seconds left in the first half.

"Tariq's just a totally different kid," Ditz said. "Halfway through the summer, he decided he wanted to be that leader, and he was ready for that weight on his shoulders. He's really come a long way."