Despite playing without its leading ground gainer, 14th-ranked Laurel had few problems running over and around Central yesterday, scoring touchdowns on its first three possessions en route to a 20-8 victory in a Prince George's 3A/2A league game in Capitol Heights.

Substituting for Mark Tiamson, who injured a knee in practice last week, junior Erik Thomas rushed 10 times for 135 yards.

"Everybody was looking for Tony {Pierce} inside," said Thomas. "With my speed, I just busted outside."

Laurel (6-0, 5-0) got on the scoreboard on the game's opening series on a four-yard run by sophomore Gary Joseph. The nine-play drive stalled at midfield, but a personal foul on fourth down gave the Spartans a first down at the Central 45. On the next play, Thomas raced around left end for 39 yards to move the ball to the 6. Two plays later Joseph scored.

"Psychologically, that was a real big play," said Central Coach Walter Fulton of the fourth-down penalty.

A weak punt after Central's first series gave Laurel the ball at the Falcons 37. Thomas rushed 19 yards to move the Spartans to the 16. Six plays later fullback Pierce went over from the 1. William Griffin passed to Thomas for the two-point conversion to make it 14-0.

Central (4-2, 3-2) had problems on its next possession, and Laurel again cashed in on good field position after a punt.

Once again Thomas provided the big play on the series, going 34 yards on a first-down sweep before being dragged down at the 1.

Pierce plowed in the end zone on the next play for another touchdown, his seventh, extending Laurel's advantage to 20-0 with just under a minute to play in the first quarter.

Central defensive end Eric Gurly blocked a punt with 5:14 left in the game. William Spencer caught the ball and ran 28 yards for the touchdown. The Falcons made a two-point conversion -- on Sam Tucker's pass to Dwayne Combs -- but were unable to recover an onside kick.