Game day for Grangers

Published 10:10 pm Thursday, August 16, 2018


Daily News

They’ve put the work in.

Now, it’s time to go play football.

The LaGrange Grangers will jump into a new season today when they host a strong Heard County team at Callaway Stadium, with kickoff set for 7:30 p.m.

It’s been a long wait for the Grangers, who endured a winless season a year ago.

LaGrange delivered an impressive performance in a 56-6 win over Kendrick in a preseason game last week.

LaGrange will look to end a 15-game regular-season losing streak when it hosts a Heard County squad that went 12-2 and reached the Class AA semifinals last season.

One of LaGrange’s veteran players, senior linebacker Vondez Taylor, said he “was real happy” with how the team played against Kendrick, but he knows the level of competition will rise significantly this week.

“We’ve just got to keep working, because Heard County’s going to bring it,” Taylor said. “We’ve got to be ready.”

For LaGrange, the wait for a regular-season win has been a lengthy one.

In the fifth game of the 2016 season, LaGrange beat Central-Carroll in its region opener.

The Grangers dropped their final five games that year, and they went 0-10 last season.

Taylor said going through a winless season has “made me real hungry,” and he’s committed to making the most of every moment he has left as a Granger.

“I’ve got to take every day like it’s going to be my last time touching the field,” said Taylor, who is also a standout in basketball. “I’m going to go real hard.”

Taylor and his teammates will need to be at their best against a loaded Heard County team.

While quarterback Emory Jones graduated and is now at Florida, nearly every other Heard County starter returns, including running back Aaron Beasley, who ran for close to 2,000 yards last season.

Also back is Alijah Huzzie, who will step in at quarterback after catching passes from Jones last year.

Huzzie has some experience at the position, and he started a playoff game at quarterback in 2015.

Heard County also returns nearly every player on the offensive and defensive lines.

For LaGrange, today’s game marks the start of a challenging opening stretch to the season.

After taking next week off, LaGrange will face another one of Class AA’s elite teams in the Callaway Cavaliers.

Following a road game against Hampton, LaGrange will open its Region 5-AAAA schedule on Sept. 21 against Central-Carroll.

LaGrange needs to finish fourth or higher in the region to return to the state playoffs for the first time since 2015.

“Our season has started, but it really comes down to when we face Central-Carroll in September,” Gibbs said. “No matter what our record’s going to be, it’s region play (that’s most important).”

While last week’s game didn’t count toward the win-loss record, it was nonetheless a fun night at the stadium.

LaGrange’s offense moved the ball at will, with quarterbacks Charles Crawford and Sam Caputo both doing an effective job.

“Our pass protection was really good,” Gibbs said. “I thought Charles Crawford did a heck of a job. He showed a lot of poise.”

Crawford threw a touchdown pass to Koby Patton, and Caputo tossed a scoring pass to Cole Sanders.

Newcomer Kayo Bradfield and Jakoby Smith both had catches as well.

Senior Jordan Ogletree, LaGrange’s leading receiver last season, didn’t play as he recovers from a shoulder injury.

“I can’t wait for us to get Jordan Ogletree back so our passing attack can go even further,” Gibbs said.

LaGrange’s running game was effective as well, with seniors Laracco Glaze and Myles Johnson each scoring four touchdowns.

“It was about making a statement,” Glaze said. “The offensive line was great. We’ve been working really hard.”

Defensively, LaGrange shut Kendrick down.

The Cherokees didn’t score until late in the game, long after LaGrange’s starters and top reserves had left the field for the night.

“It was real big,” Taylor said. “Everybody doubted us. We had to show them what we can come with.”

When the clock hits zero tonight, Gibbs said he wants every player to feel like they gave it their all.

“Let’s be excellent, and win, lose or draw, we gave it our best shot,” Gibbs said.



WHEN: Friday, 7:30 p.m.

WHERE: Callaway Stadium

LAST SEASON: Heard County went 12-2 and lost in Class AA semifinals to Hapeville-Charter; LaGrange went 0-12

COACHES: LaGrange – Chuck Gibbs (first season); Heard County – Tim Barron (139-77 record)