Big challenge for Grangers
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
The LaGrange Grangers were on the doorstep of pulling off a massive opening-night win.
Facing the Heard County Braves, the Grangers stayed in the game thanks to an impressive defensive performance before falling short 10-3.
After a week off, LaGrange will be back on the turf of Callaway Stadium tonight to take its shot at another one of Class AA’s powerhouses.
LaGrange’s opponent will be Callaway, which pulled away in the second half to beat Opelika 35-21 last week.
LaGrange head coach Chuck Gibbs watched Callaway beat Opelika, and he was impressed with what he saw.
“There’s no question we’re playing probably one of the two most talented teams on our schedule,” Gibbs said. “We’ve got to have things go our way. We’ve got to take shots, and roll the dice when we need to roll the dice and try to create an edge. We won’t go down without swinging.”
LaGrange’s defense, which was so strong against Heard County, will be put to the test.
Callaway had more than 400 yards of offense against Opelika, and junior running back Cartavious “Tank” Bigsby did a lot of the damage with 249 yards on 22 attempts with three touchdowns.
Quarterback Jacob Freeman was effective as well, running with 125 yards on 10 attempts with a touchdown, and he completed 4-of-7 passes for 71 yards.
“(Bigsby) runs strong, he’s agile and he’s fast,” Gibbs said. “He does not go down easy. He does not quit running. He has the X factor of he does not want to get tackled. He’s a play-maker. You couple that with a quarterback, who is a pro-typical spread, pro-read quarterback. He’s smart. He makes really good decisions.”
Bigsby and Freeman will try to find success against a LaGrange defense that was so effective against Heard County.
Senior linebacker Dexter Fitzpatrick had a monster game with 28 tackles, including three for loss.
Fellow linebackers Andraka Martin and Jequavious Bowles also had big games with 16 and 15 tackles, respectively.
Safety Vondez Taylor was in double digits with 10 tackles, and defensive back Jakoby Smith had six tackles.
“We’ll be better this week defensively than we were against Heard, as far as the fundamentals and lining up,” Gibbs said. “We know have some stunt packages and some blitz packages and can play man coverage. The flip side is we need it, because we’re playing a much superior offensive team than we played against Heard.”
The issue in the Heard County game was LaGrange’s inability to get much going offensively.
The Grangers were held to 48 rushing yards and 51 passing yards, and their only points came late in the game when they took over inside the Braves’ 10-yard following a botched punt attempt.
Quarterback Charles Crawford completed 9-of-14 passes for 51 yards, and he didn’t have any interceptions.
Crawford also ran for 17 yards on two attempts, and Laracco Glaze had 18 yards on eight carries.
Gibbs’ hope is that, with two weeks of practice since the Heard County game, that every player will be improved.
“The whole mantra right now, the last two weeks, is let’s just win today,” Gibbs said. “Let’s do better today.”
LaGrange will be on the road next week against Hampton before opening its Region 5-AAAA schedule on Sept. 21 at Central-Carroll.
That will be the first of six consecutive region games for the Grangers.
LaGrange needs to finish fourth or higher in the region to qualify for the state playoffs.
“If we can get out of Callaway healthy, we will have played two of our four hardest games, and they’re non-region,” Gibbs said.
“If we can compete in these two, then we can compete in our region. And our goal is making the playoffs, and having a winning record.”
CALLAWAY VS. LAGRANGE
WHEN: Today, 7:30 p.m.
WHERE: Callaway Stadium
RECORDS: Callaway (1-0); LaGrange (0-1)
LAST MEETING: Callaway beat LaGrange 26-0 last season
OF NOTE: Callaway is the home team for today’s game