Celebration set for championship team
by By Kevin Eckleberry Sports Editor
A special team is getting another moment under the lights at Callaway Stadium.
The LaGrange High football team that won a state championship in 2003 will be honored during halftime of Friday’s game against Fayette County, and all members of that team are invited to attend the ceremony.
A commemorative program will also be sold at the game.
The 2003 championship came during a remarkable period of success for the LaGrange program.
The Grangers won a state championship in 2001, and they made it back-to-back titles in 2004.
LaGrange also made it to the state semifinals in 2005 and 2008, and it advanced to the quarterfinals in 2002.
LaGrange won at least one playoff game every year from 2000 through 2008.
The 2003 team didn’t begin the season as the favorite in Class AAA to win it all.
The 2002 team that lost to eventual state-champion Screven County in the quarterfinals was a senior-laden group, with standout quarterback Blake Mitchell among others moving on after that season.
After losing their season opener to Troup in 2003, though, the Grangers won 14 consecutive games to capture the title.
In the championship game, LaGrange beat Peach County 16-7.
The 2002 team likely would have won the title if it would have got past Screven County, but it lost that game in heart-breaking fashion, 15-14.
Steve Pardue, who was the head coach for all three of the championship teams in the 2000s, said that 2002 loss was a great motivational tool for the 2003 team.
“Everybody said if we had won in ‘02, we would have won four in a row,” Pardue said. “But if we’d won in ‘02, we might not have won in ‘03. I think those kids were hungry after what happened that year.”
LaGrange’s playoff run in 2003 was a difficult one.
After thumping East Hall 49-0 in the first round, LaGrange had four grueling games in a row.
In the second round, LaGrange outlasted Hart County 12-7.
In the quarterfinals, LaGrange managed to win a game where it only scored two points.
In a defensive slugfest, a safety accounted for the game’s only points as LaGrange won 2-0.
Wesley Woodyard, now a standout linebacker for the Denver Broncos, made the tackle in the end zone for the safety.
“My buddies were calling me to congratulate me, and they said congratulations, but we had a typo in our paper. It said 2-0,” Pardue said. “They thought it was 20-0, and that they left off a number. That’s what it was.”
LaGrange then outlasted Washington County 20-17 in the semifinals before beating a strong Peach County team on its own field for the championship.
Pardue left following the 2010 season to become an assistant coach at the University of Kentucky, but many of the coaches who were on the staff in 2002 are still at the school, including current head coach Donnie Branch, who was the defensive coordinator under Pardue.
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