Grangers face big-play back
by By Kevin Eckleberry Sports Editor
LaGrange head coach Donnie Branch figures his team will see a healthy dose of Esaias Chapman Friday night.
Chapman is a senior running back for the Harris County Tigers, and he is coming off a remarkable 2012 season.
In leading the Tigers to the quarterfinals of the Class AAAAA state playoffs, Chapman ran for 2,124 yards with 22 touchdowns, and he’ll obviously be the focal point of the Harris County offense this season.
“He’s really good, and they have a huge offensive line,” Branch said. “They’re really good offensively. They throw it here and there to keep a defense loose, but they know how to run the football.”
Branch was able to watch Harris County play in a preseason game, and he said he was “really, really impressed with them.”
Harris County may have to get by without starting quarterback Taquon Marshall who has a thumb injury, although Branch said he isn’t sure if he will play or not.
Whether Marshall plays or not, Branch said Harris County will be a tough opponent.
“They have plenty of talent,” Branch said. “I know several of their coaches, and they do a really good job.”
Harris County and LaGrange are both looking to bounce back from season-opening losses.
Harris County lost to Houston County 25-14, and LaGrange lost to Newnan 42-20.
LaGrange and Newnan were tied 14-14 early in the third quarter, but the visiting Cougars ripped off four consecutive touchdowns to pull away.
Branch felt there were plenty of positives to take away from the game, though, most notably on the offensive end where the Grangers ran for more than 200 yards, with running backs Benny Gray and Mon Denson and quarterback Wynton Heard doing most of the damage.
“Anybody that was at that game and watched knows we had a chance to win the game. We were right there,” Branch said. “We ran the football for 236 yards. It wasn’t like we were getting knocked around.”
Branch said having some key players fall out with injuries was tough to overcome.
“We had some guys get dinged up or hurt, and we had some guys that had cramps at the same positions,” Branch said. “We ended up two or three men down. We’ve done some things hopefully to help that out. We’ve moved a couple of guys to different positions where they can be in the rotation depth-wise. I think that’ll help us a little bit.”
Branch said he and the other coaches are still trying to figure out the best way to use all the players.
“If you’re a veteran team, you kind of have it figured out before the season,” Branch said. “When you have so many new parts in new places, we’re still trying to figure it out a little bit.”
Against Newnan, LaGrange showed off its offensive explosiveness on long scoring runs from Heard and Denson, and Denson also threw a touchdown pass to Tavone Rivers.
Defensively, the Grangers did a lot of good things as well, although Newnan did move the ball well in the second half when it put the game away.
Branch said his opinion of what this team can accomplish didn’t change after the Newnan game.
“Like I told the players, I’m really excited about this football team,” Branch said. “I think we can have a really good football team as the year progresses. We’re a long way from it. There are enough guys doing enough good things that if they’ll keep working, and keep believing, we’ll have an opportunity to be a pretty good football team.”
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