Grangers eager to jump into season
By Kevin Eckleberry
LAGRANGE – The hay, so to speak, is in the barn.
In January, the LaGrange Grangers embarked on their offseason strength and conditioning program as they began the process of getting ready for a new season.
Now, the Grangers are hoping the work they’ve put in for the past seven-plus months will pay dividends.
LaGrange, which is heading into its fourth season under the direction of head coach Dialleo Burks, will open a new season on Friday against the Callaway Cavaliers.
“We’ve just got to believe that we’re doing what we’re supposed to do, scheme-wise,” Burks said. “Are we solid with what we’re doing? And do the guys believe?”
The Grangers are coming off a difficult 2016 season that began with a loss to the Cavaliers.
LaGrange finished with a 2-8 record that included five consecutive losses to end the season.
A win over a talented and highly-touted Callaway team would obviously be a tremendous way for LaGrange to jump into what it hopes will be a turn-around season.
“We’ve got to execute, and we can’t make mistakes,” Burks said. “We’ve got to be disciplined in everything we do.”
Callaway, which is coming off a 13-1 season that ended in the Class AA semifinals, has the respect of Burks.
“They’re a veteran team,” Burks said. “Even though they did lose some guys last year, they’ve got eight (prospective) Division I players. So we’re not going under-estimate anybody. They’ve got to understand that we’ve got to bring our best.”
LaGrange tuned up for the season by playing Heard County in a preseason game on Aug. 4.
After falling behind 20-0 in the third quarter, LaGrange scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter before losing 26-14.
Sophomore Charles Crawford, who was LaGrange’s starting quarterback against Heard County and will be under center against Callaway, believes the preseason game was a valuable learning tool.
“It shows us what we’re good at, and what we need to work on,” Crawford said. “We’ve been working on some stuff, and now we’re going to bring the full playbook into effect.”
The Grangers will run a Wing T offense that will prominently feature a talented group of running backs, including Cornell Kendrick, Myles Johnson and Trez Delaney, each of whom made some nice plays against Heard County.
“If we all do our assignments, and we all play solid football, we can get it done,” Crawford said.
Crawford will be making his first regular-season start, and he feels he’s ready for it.
During the spring, Crawford was a starting third baseman for the LaGrange baseball team that made it to the state semifinals, so he has experience performing in pressure situations.
“I’m prepared, but there’s always something you can work on,” Crawford said. “There are things you can perfect. But going into the game, I feel pretty prepared.”
This will be the first of four non-region games for the Grangers, and Burks said “we’re just striving to go out and give our best each week. The results are the results.”
Burks believes the players and coaches have done everything possible to prepare for a new season.
“We’ve worked hard. The coaches have worked hard,” Burks said. “On Friday, we just have to go in and execute what we’ve been taught.”