LaGrange eyes turnaround performance
Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 22, 2016
LAGRANGE – It hasn’t been the season they were hoping for.
The LaGrange Grangers (1-3) headed into the season filled with optimism, but it has been a bumpy ride so far.
LaGrange did get an impressive 28-7 road win over Villa Rica in the second week, but in its three losses, it has been outscored 130-6.
All that is in the past now, though.
LaGrange, which was off last week, still has plenty to play for as it begins its Region 5-AAAA schedule on Friday night with a road game against Central-Carroll.
It’s the first of six region games for the Grangers, who are hoping to snare one of the region’s four state-playoff bids.
“We’re 0-0,” LaGrange head coach Dialleo Burks said. “The schedule is broken up into different seasons. You’ve got the first four, the second six, and then you’ve got postseason. Right now we’re in the second part of the season. We’re looking to build that momentum, and really create that identity of who we are.”
After opening with a 37-6 loss to Callaway, LaGrange put together its most complete performance in the win at Villa Rica.
The offensive execution was crisp, with quarterback Amad Ogletree running for one touchdown while also throwing a scoring pass to Jamari Trash, and Cornell Kendrick had a scoring run.
LaGrange’s defense didn’t allow a point in that game, and Jalen Wilson returned an interception for a touchdown.
What followed was a brutal two-game stretch against a pair of powerful teams, though.
First up was Griffin, and it rolled to a 51-0 home win over LaGrange.
The following week, LaGrange returned home and lost to East Coweta 42-0.
After the East Coweta loss, Burks said it was time for everyone to ask themselves if they were 100 percent invested in the program.
“Through adversity, through those losses, who are you? Are you getting the extra work in, are you coming in and asking the coaches what can I do better?,” Burks said. “Or are you just accepting that’s the way it is? We’re not going to accept that’s the way it is. We’re looking to find a way. We’re going to get on the board. We’re going to see where our mistakes are. It’s not about the other team.”
Burks stressed that the players who get on the field will be the ones that are willing to give it their all, to fully commit to what he and the other coaches are attempting to do.
So far, Burks said some younger players are getting a chance to play over some more experienced players for that reason.
“What I’m seeing from our younger guys, they are playing with a fashion you need for the game,” Burks said. “They understand why they’re out here. We have a lot of good bright spots. And we’re not throwing our seniors away at all, but there are a couple of them that need to refocus, and understand that if I don’t get it together, this young guy will be in here playing. That has been our message for the past two weeks.”
Burks said his message to all of the players is to “create that sense of urgency right now.
“Look at every game as if it’s your last,” he said. “Just remember what you’ve been through, and let that propel you forward. That’s what we’re doing now. We want to play with seasoned guys that are ready to go. But mentally, you’re not there yet. So, we need something to click on. And we’re using every thing we can right now to get them going.”
There have been some bright spots amidst the losses.
Sophomore wide receiver Jamari Thrash has been one of LaGrange’s top offensive play-makers, averaging four catches and 65 yards per game, and fellow sophomore quarterback Nathan Cronic has done some good things while getting some valuable experience.
“He may be the next guy,” Burks said of Thrash. “He’s made some big catches for us. We just have to get him more.”
On defense, freshman defensive lineman is one of the young players that will be the foundation of the team moving forward.
Many of the young players were on the field last week for a junior-varsity game against Central-Carroll, and Burks said it went well.
“That was very refreshing for us, having lost the past two weeks,” Burks said.
Central-Carroll is 0-4, although it has been competitive in three of its four games.
Central-Carroll opened with a 20-13 loss to Villa Rica, and it fell to North Clayton 12-7 on Sept. 2.
In last week’s game, Central-Carroll hung tough for awhile before Heard County pulled away for a 28-7 win.
“Up front, they wore down a little bit against Heard,” Burks said.
Burks said his hope is that the players, and particularly the seniors, realize the urgency of the situation.
“You’re promised six games for the rest of your life. Make the best of them,” Burks said. “You can’t get them back.”
Reach Kevin Eckleberry at (706) 884-7311 or on Twitter @lagrangesports