Grangers chasing first win

Published 2:14 pm Thursday, October 19, 2017

By Kevin Eckleberry

LAGRANGE – Is this their week?

The LaGrange Grangers have headed into each game this season hoping it would be the night they’d get to celebrate a victory.

Unfortunately for the players and coaches, it hasn’t happened yet.

LaGrange still has two opportunities to avoid a winless season, though.

LaGrange will be at Sandy Creek on Friday before closing the regular season with a game at Chapel Hill on Oct. 27.

LaGrange fell to 0-8 with last week’s loss to Troup, but there were some encouraging signs, especially in a competitive first half.

Troup led 7-0 at the half, but its high-powered offense was held without a point in the first two quarters with the lone touchdown coming on an interception return, and LaGrange moved the ball well.

The goal for the Grangers is to duplicate that first-half effort and build on it, and possibly come away with that elusive first win.

“We’re keeping our guys positive,” LaGrange head coach Dialleo Burks said. “They want to be here, and we haven’t had a lot of guys leave. We’re still going to encourage them. We’re still going to demand what we demand. The expectations will stay the same.”

Running back Trez Delaney, one of the Granger seniors, said he and his teammates have remained upbeat, even as the losses have mounted.

“I’m very proud of my teammates,” Delaney said. “The outsiders, all they see are the wins and losses, but each week we come together as a brotherhood.”

Delaney added that “no matter what happens on Friday, we keep moving forward, and getting better every day.”

Another one of the seniors, defensive lineman PJ Thompson, said it “would be awesome” to be able to celebrate a win Friday night.

“We’ve got the mindset that we need,” Thompson said. “All we need to do is go up there and play Granger football.”

It’s a team with a lot of freshmen and sophomores either starting or getting significant playing time, and Delaney said he and the other upperclassmen have tried to be as helpful as possible.

“Me and the other seniors, we try to come together and help out the younger guys, try to get them up to speed,” Delaney said.

While the losses have mounted, Burks said the leaders on the team, as well as the assistant coaches, have done a fine job of helping to keep everyone invested.

“It is a reflection of the leadership,” Burks said. “What we preach to those guys every day is, make sure you’re giving your best, and you’re hustling 100 percent. And I take my hat off. It’s a testament to the coaches we have to be able to continue to strive to drive these guys, and motivate them, to finish what we started and to accomplish something.”

As far as on-field performance, LaGrange played its best all-around half of the season against an unbeaten Troup team.

Troup’s offense averages 45 points per game, but it was held scoreless for two quarters against an inspired LaGrange defense, with Jakoby Smith leading the way with a pair of interceptions.

LaGrange also had a productive first half on offense, although it didn’t score.

In the second half, things went downhill for the Grangers, who ended up losing 38-0.

LaGrange had three costly turnovers that led to Troup touchdowns.

“Three quick turnovers, and the game flip-flopped very quick,” Burks said.

The Grangers have had other stretches this season where they’ve played well, but they’ve been unable to sustain it for a full game.

“We just need to play four good quarters,” Burks said. “We’ll play a good half, or a good quarter. We need to play a complete game.”

One player who has been consistent all season is junior linebacker Vondez Taylor, who leads the team with 49 tackles, including four for loss.

Fellow linebackers Dexter Fitzpatrick and Daz Williams are next with 41 and 32 tackles, respectively.

Defensive backs Dezhaun Artis (31 tackles), Lequincy Shepard (17 tackles) and Jakoby Smith (16 tackles) are also among the team leaders in tackles.

Jequavious Bowles has 14 tackles, including three for loss, and Chris Watson and Taj Hixson each has 13 tackles.

On the defensive line, Robert Thornton has 11 tackles, and Jeremiah Holloway has 10.

On offense, senior running back Cornell Kendrick has carried a heavy load with 57 carries for 225 yards with a touchdown.

In the passing game, junior Jordan Ogletree has been LaGrange’s top play-maker.

Ogletree, who missed the 2016 season because of an injury suffered in the preseason, has 17 catches for 213 yards with a touchdown.

Andreka Martin also has a touchdown catch.

Sophomore DeAundre Towns has completed 10-of-16 passes for 125 yards with a touchdown, and Charles Crawford is 19-of-52 for 109 yards.

Sandy Creek was riding high earlier this season when it was 3-1 and ranked in the top 10 in the state.

Sandy Creek has dropped three straight games, though, all against region foes.

The losing streak began with a 71-16 loss to Troup, and it fell to Chapel Hill 35-32 before being blanked by Cartersville 63-0.

Running back Jordan Clark is Sandy Creek’s top offensive player, and he’s on pace for a 1,000-yard season, while Matthew Williams has been effective at quarterback