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Grangers show plenty of fight in loss

By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY

Daily News

They had a chance.

The LaGrange Grangers, short-handed because of suspensions and injuries, found themselves within three points in the fourth quarter of Thursday night’s Region 5-AAAA showdown against the Cedartown Bulldogs.

When Matt Rainey made a 38-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter, Cedartown’s lead was down to 9-6.

The Bulldogs ate up nearly six minutes on their ensuing possession, but they were forced to punt, and the Grangers took over at their own 8-yard line with 2:31 remaining.

The Grangers were unable to pick up a first down, though, and the Bulldogs ran out the clock to preserve the 9-6 win.

The game followed a familiar pattern for the Grangers, who have been in every one of their games, thanks mostly to a defense that has been suffocating.

The Grangers haven’t allowed a second-half point in four of their five games, and they haven’t given up more than 14 points in a game.

Despite that defensive dominance, the Grangers fell to 1-4 with Thursday’s loss, and they’re 0-2 in the region.

Cedartown took a 9-0 lead in the first half on a 20-yard touchdown pass from Taji Hudson to Kobe Pryor in the first quarter, and a safety early in the second quarter.

LaGrange got on the board with a Jimmy Cancino 35-yard field goal late in the second quarter, and Cedartown’s lead was 9-3 at the half.

That’s the way it remained until Rainey’s field goal with 8:44 left in the game, and Cedartown hung on for the three-point win.

Head coach Chuck Gibbs, while disappointed to see another close game go the opponent’s way, praised the effort of his players on a night when seven starters were out of the lineup.

“The kids are growing up,” Gibbs said. “The problem is, through that whole maturing process for the younger guys, the clock’s clicking on our seniors. They’ve done everything we’ve asked them to do. We’re going to be in every football game. The kids don’t quit. You know they’ve got a championship spirit inside.”

One of the seniors, Dexter Fitzpatrick, is among the state’s leading tacklers from his linebacker position, and he also filled in at fullback on Thursday because of the missing players.

Fitzpatrick enjoyed another big night, easily reaching double digits in tackles for the fifth straight game, and he said “we’re going to fight until the end.”

“We’ve only given up six points in the second half all season,” he added. “There’s something special about this team. They better watch out when we click.”

Cedartown scored the game’s lone touchdown on the opening possession, and the 71-yard drive was capped by Hudson’s 20-yard scoring strike to Pryor.

Early in the second quarter, the Bulldogs were close to adding to their lead, but they were stopped on a fourth-down play at the 1-yard line.

On the next play, Caleb Ross was tackled in the backfield for a safety, and Cedartown led 9-0 with 10:32 to play in the half.

Later in the second quarter, the Grangers were stopped at midfield, and Wesley Kuhn was called upon to punt.

The Bulldogs muffed the return, and the Grangers recovered the ball at the 20-yard line, and that led to Cancino’s 35-yard field goal.

The second half was almost all defense, with neither team able to get much going on the offensive end.

After Cedartown was stopped on fourth down in the fourth quarter, LaGrange took over at its own 20-yard line.

On second down, the Grangers hit on their longest play of the night, with Crawford finding Mikal Younkins down the middle for a 55-yard completion to the 25-yard line.

That led to Rainey’s 38-yard field goal, and the Grangers were within three with nearly nine minutes to play.

The Bulldogs got their ground game going on the ensuing possession, with Tony Mathis doing a lot of the damage, and they made it to the Grangers’ 11-yard line before getting knocked back 15 yards on a penalty.

On third-and-long, Jonathan Sutton sacked Hudson, and the Bulldogs opted to punt.

The Grangers began their final possession at their own 8-yard line, needing a field goal to tie it and a touchdown to seize the lead, but they were stymied by the Bulldogs’ defense.

The Grangers were out of timeouts, so the Bulldogs ran a few plays, and the clock ran out.

LaGrange will be on the road against Cartersville on Oct. 5.

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