Grangers deal with tough loss

By Kevin Eckleberry Sports Editor

September 9, 2013

It wasn’t a pleasant film session.

Each week, the LaGrange Grangers set aside some time to review the film from the previous game.

This week, the Grangers were breaking down the film from Friday night’s collapse against the Harris County Tigers.

The Grangers took a 27-10 lead into the fourth quarter, and it looked like they were going to cruise to their first win of the season.

Instead, Harris County rallied for four touchdowns in the fourth quarter to hand LaGrange (0-2) a 38-27 setback.

The Tigers did most of the damage with a powerful running game that proved unstoppable in the fourth quarter.

The Tigers were running the ball in any situation, and they even scored a touchdown on a third-and-22 play with a 31-yard run.

Harris County took the lead with a 22-yard touchdown run, and it capped the scoring with an interception return for a score.

When the LaGrange team got back together, the players watched the film, and the coaches let them know what they need to do to get better.

“It wasn’t very good,” LaGrange head coach Donnie Branch said. “The positive is, I think they saw it. I think they absolutely saw it. It was embarrasing. We had some embarrasing things happen.”

The Grangers appeared to have things on cruise control when Mon Denson scored on a 4-yard touchdown run with 8:39 left in the third quarter, with Taylor Stanford’s extra point making it a 27-10 game.

When the third quarter came to a close, the Grangers were still up by 17 points.

In the fourth quarter, though, everything that could go wrong, did go wrong for the Grangers.

Harris County running back Esaias Chapman, who ran for more than 200 yards, ripped off a 43-yard run, and a few plays later, quarterback Jay McKibben found Josh Stein for a 9-yard touchdown pass.

On Harris County’s next possession, Keith Jenkins took a handoff from McKibben on third-and-22, and he scored on a 31-yard run to get his team closer.

LaGrange’s next possession ended in an interception, and Harris County scored moments later on a 22-yard run by Jenkins, and the Tigers had the lead at 31-27 with 1:36 remaining.

The Tigers sealed the victory when DJ Washington picked off a Wynton Heard pass and returned it 14 yards for the touchdown.

“Everything that a good program does to win a game, we did the opposite, especially in the fourth quarter,” Branch said.

Branch said Harris County did a nice job in the fourth quarter of taking advantage of LaGrange’s defensive miscues.

“We didn’t play disciplined, assignment football, with our pads down,” Branch said. “That’s the best way to describe it. You might be going really hard, but you’re supposed to be (in your spot). When you play teams that are good, and they have two good running backs, they find the hole. The fourth quarter of the football game was embarrassing.”

Branch said it “wasn’t an effort problem” rather it was a case of players getting away from what they were supposed to be doing.

“There were points early in the game where we got away with some of it, honestly,” Branch said. “They were going to the wrong gap, or they were trying to do somebody else’s job. It was panic. That’s bad coaching. Your players can’t panic.

“The kids did it, but we’re responsible. We’re not passing the buck. We’re going to get it fixed.”

Branch said a lot of the first-time defensive starters are still learning, but he also said “there are some older kids that should know better.”

“We’re really searching for leadership on the defensive side of the ball,” Branch added. “We need somebody to get angry, somebody to get control. When it gets tough, you go back to your technique, you don’t panic.”

Harris County struck first, with Chapman scoring on a 23-yard run early in the game.

LaGrange answered later in the first quarter, with Heard scoring on a 71-yard run, and Stanford’s extra point tied it.

In the second quarter, Heard found Tavone Rivers for a 20-yard touchdown pass, and the Grangers were up 14-7.

After a Harris County field goal, Heard hit Quan Delaney for a 9-yard touchdown pass, and the Grangers were up 20-10 at the half.

Heard’s touchdown pass to Delaney capped a 98-yard scoring drive that lasted eight plays.

In the third quarter, LaGrange’s defense made a play and forced a fumble, with D.J. Towns recovering the ball just a few yards from the end zone.

On the next play, Denson’s 4-yard run and the extra point gave LaGrange a seemingly comfortable 17-point lead.

A Harris County team that made it to the state quarterfinals last season didn’t panic, though, and it fought back and earned its first-ever win over LaGrange.

“We tell our guys to fight for four quarters and our guys did that tonight,” Harris County coach Tommy Parks said. “We won eight games last year and six of the eight games we were behind at halftime. Our guys have been there before.”

LaGrange is off this week, and it will return to action on Sept. 20 with a game at Thomson.

While LaGrange will do some game-planning for Thomson this week, Branch said “our main focus is on getting us better.”