Grangers working hard in the summer
Published 12:49 am Sunday, June 24, 2018
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
The countdown is on.
In less than two months, the LaGrange Grangers will be on the turf of Callaway Stadium for their season opener against Heard County.
While official preseason practice doesn’t begin until July 25, the Grangers are hard at work this summer as they prepare for what they hope will be a bounce-back season.
In addition to workouts at the school four days a week,
LaGrange has a handful of other events on tap, including an 11-on-11 team camp at Callaway Stadium next week.
The Grangers are making their way through the summer schedule under the direction of Chuck Gibbs, who has taken over as head coach following the departure of Dialleo Burks.
Gibbs inherits a team that struggled through an 0-10 season, and he’s hopeful a productive summer will help spur a turn-around this fall.
“We’re getting better every day. You can see it,” Gibbs said on Friday morning at the close of another week. “Sometimes you get to the point where your expectations start rising, and you have to bring it back a notch. But you get excited because when the lights start going on and the kids start seeing it, and feeling it, and playing with passion, your expectations rise again.
“So you have that ebb and flow of momentum and expectations. We’re getting better, and that’s the most exciting thing. It’s really exciting to see some of these seniors start to demonstrate some leadership.”
The Grangers began their summer program in early June, and the players report to the school for four days a week.
Assistant coach Adam Daigler is running the strength program this summer, and Gibbs said that’s been going well.
“It’s been really good,” Gibbs said. “Adam Deigler, our offensive-line coach, he’s our strength guy right now, and he’s done a heck of a job with the kids in the weight room. He has great energy.”
Gibbs said the idea this summer is to make the most of the time the players are at the school, and to not over-do things.
“We’re trying to give them a break, because they worked so hard last summer,” Gibbs said. “Sometimes, less is more. To me, my philosophy, the kids have to fall back in love with the game.”
On Wednesday, LaGrange took a break from its normal summer routine by participating in a seven-on-seven competition at McIntosh, and Gibbs was pleased with what he saw.
“Based on the way we finished our seven-on-seven up at McIntosh on Wednesday, you’d never guess this team was winless last year. And that’s what you want,” Gibbs said. “They’re able to put last year behind them, yesterday behind them, the last rep behind them and play this next snap, this next rep, as if it’s the most important rep they’ll ever take.”
Next week, LaGrange will host an 11-on-11 padded camp with Salem and Haralson County.
That will give Gibbs another indication of how far the team has come.
“You want to see where we are,” Gibbs said. “Are we making improvements? How many areas are we making improvements in? Where do we need to tweak? It will be good to see our kids compete against another squad. I think that’s a great opportunity that the state allows.”
Gibbs was hired earlier this year, and he began working with the players during the two weeks of spring practice.
So far, he’s been pleased with the attitudes of the players, as well as the coaches who were a part of last year’s winless team.
“Coaches that were here last year, that are sticking it out, they’re not coaching in a way that is negative. They know what the potential is, and they’re driving it,” Gibbs said. “We’re looking out the front windshield. We’re not looking in the rearview mirror. We know where we are, and we know where we’ve got to go, and that’s forward. We’re all pulling the rope in the same direction right now, and that’s been positive.”
Gibbs added that “we’re optimistic about how far we’ve come. But we still know we’ve got a huge mountain to climb.”
The Grangers will continue their summer program until July 25 when the Georgia High School Association permits teams to begin preseason practice.
Teams can begin holding full-contact practices on Aug. 1, and on Aug. 10, LaGrange will take on Kendrick in a preseason game before the season opener against Heard County a week later.
“We want to put the best team on the field on a Friday night,” Gibbs said. “We’ll make sure whoever we put out there those first few weeks that we’re playing with a lot of passion, and it should be obvious to the people in the stands that are kids love each other, and they should see that positive energy.”
“Regardless of the scoreboard,” Gibbs added, “we want our kids to go out and execute our game plan to the best of their ability. And I think we will.”
While there is a lot of work to do when it comes to football, Gibbs does appreciate the good work Burks did with the players from a character standpoint.
“Coach Burks has done a great job of building up these kids to the standpoint of teaching them life skills, and that’s really what’s most important in their lives,” Gibbs said. “Every kid in this county, and this state, is going to come to the end of the road with football at some point in their lives. It’s what do they have to fall back on, and I think coach Burks did a tremendous job building and leading these kids. Their heads are screwed on right.
“We haven’t had any leadership issues,” Gibbs added. “We haven’t had any off the field incidents, anything noteworthy. So you’re taking over a program where he did a great job developing the character side of our kids. There’s not a lot of negativity from a standpoint of off-the-field issues, kids that aren’t performing in the classroom. There were positive take-aways from a winless season.”