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Defense leads the way for Grangers

By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY

Daily News

It was business as usual.

In the first two games of the season, LaGrange’s outstanding trio of linebackers put up monster numbers, and they ranked among the state leaders in tackles.

It was more of the same in LaGrange’s most recent game, an 8-6 victory over Hampton on Sept. 7.

Dexter Fitzpatrick, Jequavious Bowles and Andraka Martin combined for 38 tackles as LaGrange ended a 17-game losing streak.

Senior safety Jakoby Smith had a terrific game as well with six tackles, a 96-yard interception return, a 46-yard punt return, and two critical pass break-ups.

Those players helped LaGrange (1-2) secure the hard-earned road win, and they’ll be on the field today for the Region 5-AAAA opener at Central-Carroll.

“We’ve got to go 1-0 and see if we can start a winning streak,” said Chuck Gibbs, LaGrange’s head coach. “If we can get two in a row and get to .500, we’d be right where we want to be.”

It helps to have a host of play-makers leading the way on defense.

The linebackers, led by Fitzpatrick, have been phenomenal.

Fitzpatrick is tops on the team with 57 tackles, including eight for loss.

Bowles is next with 40 tackles, including five for loss, and Martin has 38 tackles, and six of them are behind the line of scrimmage.

“I’m excited,” Gibbs said. “Dexter is obviously our leader, and Qua Bowles is right there, and Andraka Martin is on his heels. It’s the way they play together, the way they love each other. They’re as good as anyone I’ve seen on film on our schedule. I wouldn’t trade my three for any three at any school right now.”

Smith has been exceptional as well with 34 tackles and two interceptions.

Against Hampton, Gibbs said Smith “made two touchdown-saving pass breakups,” and that was in addition to the interception that came at the end of the first half.

Smith picked off the ball in the end zone, and he was tackled just short of the end zone as the half ended.

Smith’s punt return set up LaGrange’s lone touchdown, which came on a 1-yard run by Laracco Glaze.

“He’s coachable in every aspect. He’s quiet, he’s a leader,” Gibbs said of Smith. “And the three (linebackers) in front of him, they’re straight dogs. I have to warn them every day to be careful with our scout team. They don’t just wrap up our scout-team running backs, they hit them. It’s almost like they’re pre-programmed in their DNA that they are sharks, and whoever is carrying that football is prey.”

While LaGrange’s defense has been terrific all season, the offense is still trying to find its footing.

LaGrange’s offense has been limited to a touchdown and a field goal in three games, and both of those possessions began inside of the opponent’s 10-yard line.

Glaze has been effective on the ground with 155 yards on 33 attempt with a touchdown.

Quarteback Charles Crawford has completed 21-of-39 passes for 244 yards, and Koby Patton is the leading receiver with five catches for 51 yards.

Mikal Younkins and Smith have four receptions apiece for LaGrange.

Central-Carroll opened its season with a 21-20 overtime victory over South Atlanta, but it has dropped its past three games.

Central’s losing streak hit three with last week’s 45-0 loss at the hands of Heard County.

The Lions are primarily a running team, and Braden Dunson leads the way with 213 yards on 43 attempts.

Central-Carroll has only thrown for 132 yards in three games.

“It’s really going to be which one of the offenses can pull it together and execute,” Gibbs said.

Following today’s game, it’ll be a quick turnaround for LaGrange, which will host Cedartown on Thursday.

LAGRANGE VS. CENTRAL-CARROLL

WHEN: Today, 7:30 p.m.

WHERE: Central-Carroll

RECORDS: LaGrange (1-2); Central-Carroll (1-3)