Granger seniors ready to roll
Published 9:31 pm Wednesday, August 8, 2018
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
He’s got a few more months to wear the uniform, and LaGrange High’s Dexter Fitzpatrick wants to make the most of that time.
“I just know when it’s gone, it’s gone,” said Fitzpatrick, who was the Grangers’ leading tackler from his linebacker position last season. “You don’t get it back. I’m just trying to do everything I can to be a great teammate, and really just teach the younger people how to be a Granger.”
Fitzpatrick, along with fellow senior standout Jakoby Smith, is hoping to help the program enjoy a resurgence this season.
The 2017 season was a difficult one for the Grangers, who went 0-10.
“The whole team, we’ve got a lot to prove,” Fitzpatrick said. “A lot of people lost a lot of respect for us. We’re just really out here to prove a point.”
LaGrange will embark on a new season under the direction of new head coach Chuck Gibbs, who was hired following the departure of previous coach Dialleo Burks.
“You’ve got adapt to new coaches. That’s hard for anybody,” said Smith, a wide receiver and safety. “The older guys have to come in and step up and be there for the young guys.”
Fitzpatrick and Smith will each play a key role this season.
Both men are two-year starters, and they’ll be anchors on a defense that didn’t allow a point in the first half of the spring game against Manchester.
Fitzpatrick could be in position to lead the Grangers in tackles once again, and he’ll be an emotional leader on defense as well.
“My role, I feel like I’m the leader of the defense,” Fitzpatrick said. “People are going to feed off of me. If I have my head down, they’ll have their heads down. If I have my head up, they’ll have their heads up. They just feed off of me.”
Fitzpatrick is a two-sport star at LaGrange.
When football season ends, Fitzpatrick will trade in his football uniform for a wrestling singlet.
Fitzpatrick, who finished fourth in the state at 195 pounds last season, believes wrestling helps him be a more effective football player.
“Wrestling teachers discipline,” Fitzpatrick said. “It just helps with a lot of stuff.”
Smith has had a handful of different roles over the years.
When he first started getting significant playing time on the varsity level, he was a quarterback.
Smith, in fact, was at quarterback for LaGrange’s last win, which came in the region opener against Central-Carroll in 2016.
Smith settled in as a defensive starter a year ago, and he was among the team leaders in tackles as a free safety.
Smith’s shining moment last season came in a loss to Troup when he had two interceptions, with one coming on a leaping catch in the second quarter.
Smith will begin making some new memories on Friday when LaGrange hosts Kendrick in a preseason game.
LaGrange opens the season on Aug. 10 against Heard County.
“I’m so ready to get started,” Smith said. “I’m definitely ready to play. I just can’t wait.”
It has been a struggle from a win-loss standpoint for Smith, but he has hung in there, and he’s hoping to end on a positive note.
“The seniors, we stayed,” Smith said. “We kept our heads up, and we’ll come back strong this year.”