Taking on the Harris County Tigers in their home debut, the Grangers were up 23-0 in the first half, and they rolled to a 37-13 victory at Callaway Stadium behind a dominant defense and a three-touchdown effort from quarterback Zach Giddens.
The Grangers were up 37-0 before the Tigers scored a pair of late touchdowns against Lagrange’s second-team defense.
The Grangers scored three of their touchdowns within a two-minute stretch in the first half that decided the ballgame.
“We needed (a win). We’re excited,” LaGrange head coach Donnie Branch said. “What excited me were the plays that killed us last week, we were all over tonight.”
It was a complete effort.
While Branch would have liked to have seen some more sustained drives, it’s hard to quibble too much with what the offense did.
Senior wide receiver Dee Smith continued his amazing start to the season with a pair of touchdown catches, giving him four touchdowns in the first two games.
Wynton Heard also caught a touchdown pass, Benny Gray had a long touchdown run, Joe Sanders returned a fumble for a touchdown, and Taylor Stanford made a field goal.
Defensively, LaGrange was suffocating.
Harris County compiled nearly 500 yards the week before against Houston County, but the Tigers couldn’t do anything against LaGrange’s starters.
Buoyed by a defensive front that constantly harassed Harris County quarterback Justin Wright, the LaGrange defense pushed the Tigers around.
“I thought we did some really good things defensively,” Branch said. “There was one point in the second quarter where we just took over. I like seeing that. We haven’t played that kind of defense in awhile.”
The defensive front of Joe Sanders, Chris Manning, Dazmon Dunlap and D.J. Hudson proved particularly troublesome for Harris.
Those players, along with linebackers Tae Glover, Dee Smith and Derrick Johnson, seemed to spend as much time in the Harris County backfield as quarterback Justin Wright.
The secondary, including sophomore Mon Denson and senior Demoton Boyd, also helped put the clamps on an offense that was so potent a week ago.
“Mon Denson was an animal,” Branch said. “He made some big hits.”
Offensively, the Grangers showed how dynamic they can be when they scored two touchdowns in a 16-second span.
After Stanford made a 23-yard field goal to cap a 12-play drive in the first quarter, the Grangers got the ball back at their own 22-yard line after Harris County missed a field goal.
On third down, Giddens kept the drive alive with a perfectly-placed 29-yard pass to Dee Gates, who was brought down at the 50-yard line.
On the next play, Smith made a catch in traffic around the 20-yard line, and it looked like he was going to the turf, but he stayed on his feet and covered the rest of the ground for the touchdown, and LaGrange was up 9-0 with 1:35 left in the first quarter.
After Harris County fumbled the ensuing kickoff, it took LaGrange just one play to find the end zone again.
Giddens dropped back and put the ball in the air, and it was tipped. An alert Wynton Heard grabbed the ball, and he took it the distance for a 40-yard touchdown.
Michael Ward’s first of two extra points in the first half gave LaGrange a 16-0 lead, and what was a three-point game moments earlier seemed to be turning into a blowout.
It got even worse for Harris County the next time it got the ball.
The ball was forced loose on a running play, and Sanders scooped it up and went 25 yards for the touchdown, and Ward’s extra point pushed the lead to 23-0 with 11:50 left in the half.
The Grangers got into Harris County territory twice more in the half, but they didn’t score again and settled for a 23-0 lead at the half.
While LaGrange’s defense was stuffing Harris County’s offense, the Granger attack stalled for a little while, and Branch would like to see the team do a better job of sustaining drives.
“I love the fact that we’re explosive, but I want to get where we can start pounding the football,” Branch said.
The explosive aspect of the Grangers revealed itself once again late in the third quarter.
After a Harris County punt, Gray took a handoff from Giddens, and he went right up the middle and through the heart of the Harris County defense for a 54-yard touchdown, and Stanford’s extra point made it a 30-0 game with 2:15 left in the third quarter.
Gray had a big night with 136 yards on nine carries.
Early in the fourth quarter, Smith struck again.
After a couple of nice carries by Denson put the ball in Harris County territory, Giddens found Smith right over the middle for a 46-yard touchdown.
Gus Golden made the final extra point for LaGrange, pushing the lead to 37-0 with 9:45 left in the game.
Smith had six catches for 160 yards against Harris County.
“He made a couple of circus plays,” Branch said. “He plays the ball. He’s a gamer.”
Harris County avoided the shutout on a 30-yard touchdown run by Esaias Chapman with 7:24 left in the game, and Justin Wright threw a 21-yard scoring pass to Tae Crowder with 2:57 remaining to cap the scoring.
LaGrange will be back home on Sept. 21 against Thomson.