Grangers’ Fitzpatrick earns region honor
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
He was a tackling machine.
It wasn’t the season the LaGrange Grangers were hoping for, but there were some individual players who had outstanding years, and Dexter Fitzpatrick was at the top of that list.
Fitzpatrick, a senior linebacker, had a phenomenal season with close to 200 tackles, and he was in double digits in tackles in every game this season.
Fitzpatrick has been selected as the Region 5-AAAA defensive player of the year, and he’s one of 14 Grangers who earned a spot on the all-region team.
“I feel like I put a lot of hard work in,” Fitzpatrick said. “For other coaches to recognize that, it is amazing.”
Three Grangers made the first team, four others were second-team selections, and there were five honorable-mention picks.
Fitzpatrick began his season with a remarkable 28-tackle performance against Heard County, and he had at least 20 tackles in four of the first six games.
Fitzpatrick never had fewer than 12 tackles in a game, and he even filled in at fullback in a pair of games because of injuries.
The Grangers finished with a 2-8 record, and they’re 2-18 over the past two years.
Through it all, Fitzpatrick has given it his all in every game as he tried to set an example for his younger teammates.
“When I hang my head, other people will to, because they look up to me,” Fitzpatrick said. “I have to keep a positive spirit all the time.”
Fitzpatrick believes the tough times he’s had to deal with on the football field will help him as he prepares to make the transition to college.
“These past four years, I haven’t had a winning record,” said Fitzpatrick, who is also a standout wrestler who placed at last season’s state meet. “But I feel like down the road, it will have taught me a lot, how to overcome adversity.”
Fitzpatrick was able to finish his high-school career on a positive note.
LaGrange trailed Shaw 14-3 in the second half last week, but it rallied for a 16-14 victory.
“At halftime, the seniors came together, and we said it’s our last game, and we have to play our hearts out,” Fitzpatrick said. “The second half, we did. We had a spark, and it spread like wildfire.”
Fitzpatrick was part of a linebacker corps that was exceptional.
Junior Qua Bowles, who played alongside Fitzpatrick, had 158 tackles, including 27 for loss, and he’s also a first-team all-region player.
Bowles was in double digits in tackles in every game but one, and he had more than 20 tackles in back-to-back games against Central-Carroll and Cedartown.
Junior linebacker Andraka Martin, a second-team all-region player, chipped in with 131 tackles, including 20 for loss.
Senior defensive back Jakoby Smith, who was a second-team selection, had 94 tackles and a team-leading three interceptions.
Smith also played running back, and he was second on the team with 215 yards on 53 attempts.
Three other defensive standouts were honorable-mention selections.
Among that group is sophomore linebacker Jacquez Smith, who was an impact performer with 47 tackles, and he led the team with eight sacks.
Vondez Taylor, a senior safety, was fourth on the team with 96 tackles, including 12 for loss, and he had an interception and nine pass break-ups.
Freshman defensive lineman Thad Dixon, who didn’t start playing until the fourth game of the season, had 22 tackles, and 12.5 of them were behind the line of scrimmage.
On offense, junior offensive lineman Jonathan Sutton is a first-team all-region selection, while wide receivers Jordan Ogletree made the second team.
Honorable-mention picks are Dylan Norvell (wide receiver), and Robert Thornton (offensive lineman).
The kicking game was a strength of LaGrange’s team, and those players are well-represented on the all-region team.
Wesley Kuhn, who averaged 41 yards per punt, is a first-team pick, as is place kicker Jimmy Cancino, who made both of his field-goal attempts and did a terrific job on kickoffs.
Kicker Matt Rainey, who also made both of his field-goal tries, made the second team.
OF THE YEAR
Dexter Fitzpatrick – linebacker
Qua Bowles – linebacker
Jonathan Sutton – offensive line
Jimmy Cancino – kicker
Wesley Kuhn – punter
Andraka Martin – linebacker
Jakoby Smith – defensive back
Jordan Ogletree – wide receiver
Matt Rainey – kicker
Robert Thornton – offensive line
Jacquez Smith – defensive line
Thad Dixon – defensive line
Vondez Taylor – defensive back
Dylan Norvell – wide receiver