Granger ready for fresh start
LAGRANGE – Jalen Wilson is looking at it as a fresh start.
The LaGrange Grangers have had their struggles this season, and they’re coming off a 42-0 loss to East Coweta that dropped their record to 1-3.
Here’s the good news for Wilson and his Granger teammates.
When the Grangers travel to Carrollton on Friday to face the Central-Carroll Lions, they will in essence have a blank slate as they begin their Region 5-AAAA schedule.
LaGrange was off last week, so it will have two weeks to prepare for Friday’s region showdown.
“Me and coach (Dialleo) Burks, we’ve been telling everybody it’s region play now,” said Wilson, a senior defensive back and wide receiver. “We can still compete for a region championship, we can still go the playoffs. It’s 0-0 right now.”
Wilson is eager to begin forging some most positive memories from what will be his final season as a high-school player.
LaGrange began its season with a 37-6 loss to Callaway, but it bounced back the following week and beat Villa Rica 28-7, and Wilson returned an interception for a touchdown in that game.
In its next two games, though, LaGrange lost to Griffin 51-0 and East Coweta 42-0, and losing like that is not an easy thing to accept, particularly for a competitor like Wilson.
“It’s not fun losing,” Wilson said.
The Grangers should be buoyed by the return of some players who have been out with injuries.
While quarterback LaPerion Perry is still out of action while he recovers from offseason surgery, some other key players are set to return.
“With the full team, it’s going to be a bad night for whoever is playing us,” Wilson said.
One player who has been there throughout the season is Wilson, who occupies a critical role in the LaGrange secondary.
Wilson was a part-time player a year ago who got a handful of starts, and he has been on the field for nearly every defensive snap this season.
“I’ve gone from defensive back to safety,” Wilson said. “One of our safeties got hurt, so they moved me back there so we could have a better secondary.”
Wilson, who is also a wide receiver, said he has no preference as to where he is on the field.
“I’ll go anywhere,” he said. “I just want to help the team win.”
During LaGrange’s lone win against Villa Rica, Wilson showed what he’s capable of.
LaGrange was ahead 7-0 in the first half when Wilson picked off a pass and returned it for a touchdown, and that was part of a dominant effort.
“We were in cover two,” Wilson said of his pick six. “I saw the quarterback scrambling, and I read him. I read the play.”
Part of Wilson’s success comes from the work he puts in during the offseason.
How diligent Wilson is about the offseason program was on display when he finished second in the LaGrange ironman competition that is held at the start of preseason practice.
“I’ve got to be the best player on the field,” Wilson said. “That’s all.”
Wilson is hoping to carry that work ethic to a college football team next season.
“That’s my number one goal, to go to college and play football,” Wilson said.
On Saturday, Wilson took a recruiting visit, and he said that only fueled his desire to play the game on the college level.
“I went for a visit to Catawba on Saturday for a home game,” Wilson said. “It was fun. I see them running around, enjoying it and having fun, it made me want to play.”
While Wilson is eager to carry his game to the next level, he’s in no hurry to leave high school behind.
The results have been mixed during Wilson’s time as a Granger, but he has enjoyed being a part of the LaGrange program.
“Anytime I can spend with my teammates, it’s fun,” Wilson said. “I spend time with the coaches, just laughing.”
Wilson said he’s also appreciative of the committment Burks, LaGrange’s third-year head coach, has made to the all of the players in helping prepare them to lead a productive life.
“Coach Burks, he’s trying to make us better men, better fathers and husbands one day,” Wilson said.
Wilson is guaranteed at least six more games, beginning with Friday’s game at Central-Carroll.
That’ll be the first of six region games for the Grangers, and if they finish among the top four teams in the region, they’ll qualify for the state playoffs.
Reach Kevin Eckleberry at (706) 884-7311 or on Twitter @lagrangesports