They did so much right, and there were so many encouraging things to take from Friday’s season opener for the LaGrange Grangers.
In the end, though, all of the good things the Grangers did weren’t enough to keep them from losing a heart-breaker to the Callaway Cavaliers before a standing-room only crowd at Callaway Stadium.
The Grangers took a 14-0 lead early in the fourth quarter,but the Cavaliers rallied for a pair of touchdown to tie it at 14-14 and force overtime.
In overtime, LaGrange had the ball first, and it was unable to score after getting stopped on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line.
Callaway then scored on its overtime possession to pull off the stunning 20-14 victory.
The Grangers dominated much of the game, but in the end they had to watch another team celebrate the win.
“They fought their tails off,” said Dialleo Burks, who was making his debut as LaGrange’s head coach. “We have to find a way to get over that hump. And it’s coming. At some point, it’s going to come together.”
There were a lot of positive signs for the Grangers.
A defense with a bunch of new starters did a terrific job on Callaway’s explosive offense, for most of the night at least.
Until two late touchdown drives, the Cavaliers were unable to sustain anything on offense, and they had four turnovers, and twice they were turned away on fourth down in LaGrange territory.
Offensively, the Grangers were impressive.
The offensive line, expected to be a strength of the team, did a nice job.
Mon Denson had more than 100 yards on the ground, and Kimani Barnes and Jeremiah Wright both had scoring runs.
Sophomore Laperion Perry provided some explosive offensive plays, and sophomore quarterback Amad Ogletree settled down as the game went along and was effective.
But it wasn’t enough to avoid a painful loss.
“They’re hurting,” Burks said. “They’ve got friends and families over there. We’ll go look at the film, and we’ll really dissect what it is we need to do to get better.”
The Grangers didn’t score in the first half, although they had their chances.
On their first possession, after recovering a fumble, the Grangers made it to the 21-yard line when a fourth-down play failed.
In the second quarter, LaGrange made it to the Callaway 24-yard line when another fourth-down play was unsuccessful.
Late in the half, LaGrange got the ball at midfield after Wright forced a fumble, with Emanuel Swanson recovering the ball at midfield.
On the next play, though, the Grangers threw an interception, and the Cavaliers ended up with the ball at the LaGrange 28-yard line.
LaGrange’s defense was up to the challenge again, though, with Triston Dozier coming up with the interception to make sure the game would be scoreless at the half.
In the third quarter, after the Cavaliers lost a fumble on their own 35-yard line, the Grangers were able to turn a scoring chance into points.
The Grangers thought they’d scored when Perry caught a 33-yard touchdown pass from Ogletree.
A pair of Callaway players collided while trying to intercept the ball, and Perry came up with the tipped ball and scored a touchdown.
That play was wiped out by a 15-yard penalty, though, and LaGrange was moved all the way back to the 49-yard line.
After an 8-yard completion from Ogletree to Perry, Callaway was flagged for a penalty, and the Grangers had a first down at the 23-yard line.
After a Denson 15-yard run got the Grangers close, Barnes’ 1-yard touchdown run put the first points of the game on the board.
Nathan Patton converted the extra point, and LaGrange led 7-0 with 1:15 left in the third quarter.
After a short punt, LaGrange took over at the Callaway 43-yard line early in the fourth quarter.
It didn’t take the Grangers long to score again.
They needed five plays to go 43 yards, and Wright capped the drive with a 9-yard run, and Patton’s extra point gave the Grangers a 14-0 lead.
The Cavaliers got within seven when they went 69 yards in less than a minute to make it a 14-7 game with 4:59 remaining.
LaGrange got the ball back with a chance to run out the clock and finish things off.
It looked like the Grangers were in great shape when Ogletree took off on a 44-yard run all the way to the Cavaliers’ 20-yard line.
It was a fantastic play for Ogletree, who was hit in the backfield but managed to stay on his feet and then sprint down the left sideline for the big gain.
Unfortunately for the Grangers, the next play resulted in a lost fumble, and the Cavaliers took over with 2:44 to play.
A turnover was the one thing the Grangers couldn’t do in that situation.
“You can not do that,” Burks said. “That’s the number two team in the state. If it’s number two, or number 99, you can not do that.”
Callaway drove 80 yards for the tying touchdown, and it was on to overtime.
The Grangers had the first overtime possession, and they moved it from the 15-yard line to the 1-yard line where they faced fourth down.
LaGrange went for the touchdown, but Callaway came up with the big stop on fourth down.
Needing a score to win it, the Cavaliers ended the suspense with a 4-yard scoring run by quarterback Dre Martin.
While Callaway’s players celebrate, the Grangers were dealing with a stunning loss.
LaGrange now turns its attention to Friday’s showdown with Troup.
“We’ll take tonight and get over this one, and tomorrow we’ll rest up, and then we’ll get right back to work,” Burks said.