Big bounce-back win for Grangers
VILLA RICA – The LaGrange Grangers felt they were a better team than they showed in a season-opening loss to Callaway, and they were committed to proving it on Friday night against Villa Rica.
Led by a defense that didn’t give up a point and an offense that drove the ball and had a handful of explosive plays, LaGrange eased past Villa Rica 28-7 to even its record at 1-1.
“We were the underdog,” said LaGrange quarterback Amad Ogletree, who had a big night. “We knew we had to get a win, and we knew we could get a win if we played smart. That’s all we talked about in practice. We finally did it, and we won.”
Ogletree played a major part in the victory.
The senior had a touchdown run in the first half, he also threw a scoring pass to Jamari Trash, and he had a long completion to Bo Russell that set up a Cornell Kendrick touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
Ogletree had more than 200 combined yards, wtih 107 passing yards and another 98 yards on the ground.
LaGrange’s defense overwhelmed Villa Rica, and senior Jalen Wilson returned an interception for a touchdown in the second quarter.
“It was a very big win,” Wilson said. “When we lost to Callaway, everybody started doubting us. They thought we weren’t going to win that many games this season.”
Villa Rica, which began its season with a nice win over county rival Central-Carroll, was over-matched in all areas against LaGrange.
The Grangers controlled the game right from the start and led 21-0 at the half, and the way the defense was playing, the outcome was never in doubt.
Even when Villa Rica seemed to grab some momentum with the defensive touchdown to make it a 21-7 game, LaGrange wasn’t phased.
LaGrange drove for a touchdown of its own in the fourth quarter to go up 28-7 and salt the game away.
LaGrange finished with 306 yards, and it was a balanced effort.
Ogletree threw for 165 yards, and the Grangers ran for 141 yards.
Villa Rica, meanwhile, managed just 126 yards, and only 18 of those yards were through the air.
“We really executed, and we didn’t beat ourselves,” Ogletree said. “We didn’t have many penalties. And we made big plays, made them count.”
LaGrange defensive coordinator Marvin Kendricks said everything worked together, with the offensive and defensive players all getting it done.
“The offense did a good job keeping us off the field, and that’s our goal,” Kendricks said. “They want to keep us off the field, and we want to keep them on the field. We want to go three-and-out as much as posible. And they want to sustain drives, and keep the chains moving, win third down so we can have first down.”
LaGrange started quickly, scoring a touchdown on its first possession, with Ogletree taking it in from 26 yards out for the score.
Ogletree decided to keep the ball on the option play, and that was obviously the right choice.
“It was a read option play,” Ogletree said. “I just read the defensive end, and I just kept running, and I scored.”
Austin Stamper made the first of his four extra points to give LaGrange a 7-0 lead.
A short time later, LaGrange’s defense got into the act, with Wilson picking off a pass and taking it to the end zone for a touchdown.
Wilson said it was mostly smooth sailing to the end zone, but that toward the end of the play “the quarterback tried to come tackle. One of our linemen blocked, and then it was a clear path by then.”
The Grangers added one more touchdown in the third quarter, and they did it with the big play.
The Grangers picked up nearly 40 yards when Ogletree completed a pass to Russell.
A Villa Rica player nearly picked off the pass, but the ball deflected off of him and into Russell’s hands, and he raced all the way to his own 47-yard line.
Ogletree then completed a short pass to Thrash, who out-raced the Villa Rica defense for a 53-yard touchdown.
On the ensuing possession, Villa Rica looked like it was going to score a touchdown of its own, but LaGrange made a goal-line stand, and it remained a 21-0 game.
Villa Rica got an 85-yard fumble return for a touchdown by Christian Farmer to make it a 14-point game in the fourth quarter.
Back came the Grangers.
The Grangers were at their own 33-yard line when Ogletree hooked up with Russell for a 50-yard completion.
Russell caught a strike from Ogletree at the 43-yard line, and he raced 40 more yards to set the Grangers up at the Wildcats’ 16-yard line.
That led to Kendrick’s touchdown run, and LaGrange was back up by 21.
Ogletree said that scoring drive was big for the Grangers coming off of the fumble.
“After the fumble, after they scored, we came out the first play and I connected with a pass to Bo,” Ogletree said. “It was a real big play.”
Kendricks said he was proud of the way the players didn’t let the loss to Callaway have a carry-over effect.
“I’m proud of those guys,” Kendricks said. “We had a good week of practice, coming off a loss. I told them early last week, don’t let that loss effect the next couple of games. You don’t want that to roll over to the next couple of weeks. So, we took that, and we strived for greatness that week.
Reach Kevin Eckleberry at (706) 884-7311 or on Twitter @lagrangesports