It’s game day for Grangers
Published 8:47 pm Thursday, May 17, 2018
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
Ready or not, it’s time to play football.
The LaGrange Grangers, under the direction of first-year head coach Chuck Gibbs, will host Manchester in a spring game today at 6 p.m.
The game will be the culmination of LaGrange’s spring-practice period which began more than two weeks
ago, and it’s been a busy time as Gibbs has given his players a crash course on what he’ll expect from them.
The one thing Gibbs hasn’t spent much time on is putting together a game plan for today’s game, which will be held at Callaway Stadium.
“We’ll have 25 percent of our players in for Friday’s scrimmage,” Gibbs said. “Until we can run our base, we’re not running other stuff. So, the flip side is, the community wants to see an offense, they want so see us score points, they want to see us get first downs, they want to see a lot. And you’d like to make it electric, but not at the expense of using this time to build for the summer.”
Gibbs spent the past four seasons as the head coach at Scottsdale Christian Academy, and he guided the team to a combined record of 31-14.
Gibbs, an Auburn native, has taken over at LaGrange following the departure of Dialleo Burks.
Gibbs knows he has some work to do with the Grangers coming off a winless season, and there has been plenty of teaching going on the past two weeks.
“People ask me about it, and I’m like, we have to do a better job teaching than what they’ve done in the past, and not overcomplicate from a standpoint of schemes, because if our kids don’t understand A and B, then G, H and I, there’s no chance,” Gibbs said.
To help with the learning process, Gibbs recruited someone he knows well to lend a hand.
Gibbs’ father is Alex Gibbs, who is perhaps the best-known offensive-line coach in the history of the NFL.
Gibbs, who is known as the godfather of the zone blocking scheme, was the offensive-line coach for the Denver Broncos when they won back-to-back Super Bowl championships.
Gibbs spent time with the team last week, giving the LaGrange players the opportunity to learn from one of the greats in the history of the sport.
“We accomplished two of the four things we wanted to accomplish when my dad was here,” Chuck Gibbs said. “It further reinforced that we were further behind than I even thought. I thought if we can do four of our 10 things by the end of the week, that’d be great. And we got two of them in. We’re still working on those other two. So we’re 50 percent done with what we hoped to have done by the scrimmage. And it tells you, that’s where it is.”
Gibbs did say that “the kids have responded well” to what he and the other coaches have been trying to teach them, and he has assured the players that what happened in previous seasons won’t have any impact moving forward.
“We come in, and everybody’s got a clean slate,” Gibbs said. “We’re giving them the benefit of the doubt to kids that some of the coaches have given up on in the past.”
Gibbs added that “we’re not going through and grading last year’s film and declaring who our starters are.”
Gibbs said the goal is to make sure each day is a productive one.
“Day by day, we’ve got to get better,” Gibbs said. “We’ve got to go 1-0 today. My thing to the kids is, win today. Let’s not worry about anything else. Let’s win today.”
In addition to the teaching going on, Gibbs said another focus has been letting the current players know they are an important part of the program.
With that in mind, LaGrange held what Gibbs called a signing-day ceremony on Saturday.
The players who will be freshmen this coming season participated in the ceremony, and they signed a letter of intent to become a part of the LaGrange program.
“Look around, how many of our kids decided to go elsewhere,” Gibbs said “Let’s get them in and practice with us, which means we won’t be as good (against Manchester) as we should because we’re coaching incoming freshmen. But for the benefit of our program long-term, getting these kids in, letting them see themselves wearing Granger blue, letting them be a part of the program, it’s important. They come up and sign a letter of intent, and we did a little signing ceremony. All of their parents were here. We’re trying to make it a community-type event.”
Gibbs added that “our issue was, retention, retention, retention.”
“Let’s make sure we do everything in our power to shore up our incoming ninth-graders, and our rising eighth-graders, to know that we care about them, and that they’re a part of the program,” Gibbs said. “We need them to build.”
Gibbs said another focus is making sure the players achieve academically as well, and he’s pleased with what he’s seen so far.
“Academics have gone through the roof since January,” he said. “I’m blessed that the entire math department came in and volunteered for 2 ½ hours on a Saturday morning. We had 13 kids sitting in and getting additional tutoring.”
Gibbs believes that having discipline when it comes to school work will help the players in all aspects of life, including football.
“I had a kid turn in homework that was due two months ago,” Gibbs said. “And there’s no credit for it. I said it doesn’t matter if there’s credit for it or not. You were supposed to do it. We need to do it, and turn it in.”
Gibbs believes that sort of work ethic “translates to life. If we can teach life skills, they’re going to learn football.”
WHO: LaGrange vs. Manchester
WHEN: Today, 6 p.m.
WHERE: Callaway Stadium.