Grangers go for two straight
by By Kevin Eckleberry Sports Editor
Now that’s more like it.
After opening the season with three frustrating losses, the LaGrange Grangers got to taste victory for the first time Friday night against the Shaw Raiders.
It was a complete performance as the Grangers rolled to a 30-7 victory in their Region 5-AAAA opener, and Friday night at home against Columbus, they’ll try to put together their first winning streak of the season.
“We needed to get confidence,” LaGrange head coach Donnie Branch said. “The only way you can get confidence, is to do it, to win. There’s nothing you can do but go out and win. We got over the hump.”
Shaw came into Friday’s game with a 2-1 record, but it’s non-region schedule was considerably softer than LaGrange’s.
LaGrange lost to Newnan, Harris County and Thomson to begin the season.
“We could have been 3-0,” Branch said. “All we had to do was pick three bad teams. We get Thomson, Newnan, and a good Harris team. We had chances to win those.”
Considering the winless record, Branch said “I’m not sure (the Raiders) didn’t underestimate us. Sometimes, you get hung up in wins and losses.”
In those first three games, Branch said “we had so many dumb plays, just bad plays, negative plays that we caused. The other team is hard to beat without us giving them things.”
Against Shaw, Branch said the team finally came through with a complete performance.
“We played a lot smarter,” he said. “And we tackled well, got a lot of guys to the ball. We played the running game well. We made them one-dimensional. They caught some balls, but we tackled them. There wasn’t anything over the top. It was definitely a good effort.”
Offensively, LaGrange controlled things with a powerful running game featuring the tandem of Benny Gray and Mon Denson, who combined for close to 200 yards and four touchdowns.
“Our offense helped us, because they moved the ball, especially on the ground,” Branch said.
The game couldn’t have started any better for the Grangers.
After the defense forced Shaw into a three-and-out on its first possession, the Grangers got the ball in great field position after a blocked punt.
Moments later Gray scored from two yards out for the first of his three touchdowns.
After another Shaw three-and-out, LaGrange scored again, with Denson finding the end zone from 28 yards out.
Wynton Heard ran the ball in for two-point conversions after each of those touchdowns, and LaGrange was up 16-0.
“From that point on, we just controlled the game,” Branch said.
Gray added a 7-yard touchdown run in the second quarter as LaGrange went up 23-7 at the half, and Gray capped the scoring with a 6-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.
LaGrange struggled in the second half in losses to Harris County and Newnan, but the story was a lot different against Shaw.
“We had a lead on Shaw, just like we did on Harris, and we buried them,” Branch said. “We pounded the ball.”
LaGrange now turns its attention to a Columbus team that is coming off a 51-0 loss to Carrollton last week.
The Blue Devils (1-3) are better than they were a year ago when they endured a winless season.
Columbus was competitive in losses to Brookstone and Hardaway before beating Hardaway 35-13, ending a 19-game losing streak.
“They have some good skill kids,” Branch said. “We need to come out and score, because offensively, they’ve got two or three guys. They definitely have more athletes than they’ve had.”
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