By Kevin Eckleberry Sports Editor
October 30, 2013
A lot has gone wrong for the LaGrange Grangers this season, but their goals are still very much in sight.
Heading into Friday’s showdown against the rival Troup Tigers, the Grangers are still in the playoff chase, but they likely need to win the game to remain in contention for a state berth.
“This is the position we’re in,” LaGrange head coach Donnie Branch said. “We have to do what we have to do. A win puts us in position for the postseason. That’s what our goal is is to go get it done.”
The Grangers (3-5 overall) are 3-2 in Region 5-AAAA, and they can make the playoffs with wins over the Tigers this week and over Carrollton in the regular-season finale.
If LaGrange beats Troup and loses to Carrollton, it could still make the playoffs depending on what Troup and Alexander do.
There is also a possibility LaGrange could be involved in a mini-playoff on the Monday after the regular season ends.
The playoff scenarios aside, this is obviously an important game for LaGrange against its biggest rival.
“It’s the Troup, LaGrange game,” Branch said. “If there wasn’t anything on the line, it wouldn’t matter. It just happens that there’s something at stake. If there wasn’t something at stake there’s still something at stake.”
The Grangers have had an up-and-down season as their record indicates.
After losing all three of their non-region games, the Grangers opened region play in impressive fashion with wins over Shaw and Columbus.
LaGrange then went on the road and lost a key game to Alexander, though, and it split its next two games against Fayette County (win) and Sandy Creek (loss).
Had LaGrange beaten Alexander, it could have clinched a playoff berth with a win over Troup.
As difficult as the season has been at times, a win over Troup would obviously be a tremendous boost for the team.
“In a season full of injury and chaos at times, and all kinds of adversity, and adversity that nobody knows about, this would be a great opportunity for a big win,” Branch said.
It won’t be easy.
Troup is playing well on both sides of the ball, and Branch figures it will come down to the team that does the best job of controlling things up front.
“It won’t be a trick game,” Branch said. “We have to battle inside. We have to battle the line of scrimmage. Their front four is really good. Their linebackers are good. They have skill in the back end of their defense. They’re aggressive.
“On offense, their front’s aggressive. They’ve got a good scheme. They know what they’re doing. They’re patient.”
As for the Grangers, they’ll look to bounce back after last week’s difficult 42-7 loss to top-ranked Sandy Creek.
Sandy Creek led 35-0 at the half, and both teams scored seven points in the second half.
LaGrange’s offense, despite last week’s disappointment, has been potent this season, averaging 28 points a game.
Running backs Benny Gray and Mon Denson have combined for 19 touchdowns, and Wynton Heard has done a solid job at quarterback filling in for Zach Giddens, whose senior season has been limited to less than one quarter because of offseason surgery, and a shoulder injury suffered in the Thomson game.
The Grangers have had their defensive issues, and they’ve allowed 30 or more points in five of their eight games.
Branch was encouraged by the way the Grangers responded in the second half last week against Sandy Creek.
Facing a 35-0 halftime deficit, the Grangers played the Patriots on even terms in the second half.
Sandy Creek didn’t score its second-half touchdown until the final play of the game.
“We looked at it as an opportunity to get better at something heading into a game we need to win,” Branch said. “That’s kind of the way we approached it.”