Grangers still searching for first win

Published 11:29 pm Thursday, August 31, 2017

By Kevin Eckleberry

LAGRANGE – The game was out of reach and the outcome had long since been decided, but that didn’t matter to the LaGrange Grangers.

With less than five minutes remaining in Thursday’s game at Callaway Stadium, Griffin had the ball at the LaGrange 5-yard line leading 31-0.

A LaGrange defense that had stood tall for most of the night was determined to keep fighting to the finish line.

On fourth-and-goal, Griffin’s quarterback was forced out of the pocket, and his pass in the end zone was intercepted by Lequincy Shephard.

That was the second goal-line stand the Grangers made in the second half, and while it didn’t impact the outcome, the performance of the defense was a bright spot in the 31-0 setback.

Now, the hope for LaGrange head coach Dialleo Burks is that an offense that has been held scoreless through three games will begin to find some consistency.

“We’ve got some heads turning right now, but we’ve got to turn all of them,” Burks said. “Defensively, they see the success that we can have. The goal-line stand, that’s a success. Offensively, we’ve got to find that success. We’ve got to find how to cross that goal line.”

Junior defensive back Vondez Taylor, who had a big night that included an interception on a two-point attempt, said it’s all about continuing to improve as the start of Region 5-AAAA play draws closer.

LaGrange visits East Coweta next week before opening the region schedule on Sept. 22 against Central-Carroll.

“We’ve just got to keep improving,” Taylor said. “I can see why everybody’s down, but we’ve just got to stay up and have fun.”

As for the performance of the defense in the second half, Taylor said “it’s just pride. We wanted it.”

The reality for the Grangers, though, is that they’re 0-3, and they’ve been shut out in each of those games.

“The adversity of looking up on that scoreboard and seeing that we don’t have anything, and that we’re behind, it’s easy to get to that point where you start pointing fingers,” Burks said. “But you can’t let that creep in. We’re going to continue to focus on our guys doing their jobs.”

Griffin (2-0), which is coming off an 11-win season, was led by senior quarterback Avious Nelson, who threw three touchdown passes and a scoring run.

Griffin also scored a defensive touchdown in the second half.

After a scoreless first quarter, Griffin put the first points on the scoreboard early in the second quarter.

A drive that began at the LaGrange 36-yard line ended with Nelson taking off on a 22-yard touchdown run.

After an unsuccessful extra-point attempt, Griffin led 6-0 with 10:53 to play in the half.

That’s the way it remained until, with less than four minutes left in the half, Nelson hooked up with David Westmoreland for a 15-yard touchdown pass on fourth down.

With a little more than a minute left in the half, Nelson was almost tackled in the backfield, but he stayed on his feet and found a wide-open Terrell Jester in the end zone for a 50-yard touchdown.

That score gave Griffin a 19-0 lead, which was the score at the half.

Early in the third quarter, Nelson had a 25-yard run that set up his 1-yard touchdown pass to Westmoreland, and it was a 25-0 game.

Griffin was threatening again later in the quarter when Chris Watson picked off a pass at the LaGrange 4-yard line.

The Grangers gave the ball right back to the Bears on a fumble, but the defense was up to the challenge.

On fourth-and-goal from the 2-yard line, Taylor got pressure on Nelson to force an incomplete pass, and the Grangers the ball back.

The Bears ended up scoring anyway when Kordarius Ray recovered a fumble in the end zone with 32 seconds left in the third quarter.

The Griffin offense kept attacking in the fourth quarter, but it was unable to score anymore points.

Taylor had a tackle for loss to force a punt, and Shephard’s interception thwarted Griffin’s final scoring opportunity.