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LaGrange ready for the champs

By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY

Daily News

They’re ready for the champs.

The LaGrange Grangers will jump into a new season on Friday, and their opponent will be a Heard County team that won the Class AA state title last season.

Heard County began that championship season with a hard-fought 10-3 victory over LaGrange at Callaway Stadium.

While Heard County was hit hard by graduation following the 2018 season, LaGrange head coach Chuck Gibbs is expecting to see a quality team on Friday night in Franklin.

Heard County is led by Tim Barron, who returns for his 18th season as the head coach.

“When you have a great coaching staff, and they’re seasoned, and you have kids that

grew up through your program and they believe in your system, you’re still going to have a confident program on Friday night, and you’re not going to have a lot of mental mistakes,” Gibbs said. “You’re going to force teams to beat you, as opposed to beating yourself through errors.”

For LaGrange, the close loss to Heard County last  year was a precursor of what was to come.

Although the Grangers went 2-8 last season, they were competitive in nearly every game.

Four of LaGrange’s losses were by seven or fewer points, and it hung tough with Callaway in a 14-0 setback.

What’s in store for the 2019 season remains to be seen, but Gibbs feels good about the men he’ll be leading onto the field this fall.

“We’ve got a lot of team guys,” Gibbs said. “We’ve got a lot of guys that don’t mind being in a rotation. If you’re two-deep on the defensive line, and you’re one-and-a-half deep on the offensive line, and you have a stable of running backs, and you have a good stable of linebackers, you’re going to be in most ballgames.”

LaGrange took a test run last week, and it thumped Kendrick 34-0 at Callaway Stadium in a preseason game.

While the defense was dominant all night, the offense was unstoppable after a slow start.

Leading the way was quarterback Charles Crawford, who is in his third season as the starter.

Crawford threw touchdown passes to Cole Crawford and Sam Yates, and he also had a scoring run. Caleb Ross and Valshawn Patterson added touchdown runs for the Grangers.

“We’re excited,” Gibbs said. “We expect to play great defense, and we’ve got a good game plan for them. Can you be sound on defense, sound on special teams, and score enough points to come out on top.”

Heard County tuned up for the season with a preseason game against Alexander last week.

Heard County lost 38-20, with the starters playing most of the first three quarters.

Heard County has four starters back on defense and five on offense.

While it’ll be a new-look team, the cupboard is hardly bare for Heard County.

Among the returnees is big-play running back Alex Boyd, and defensive lineman Tray Owens.

Barron’s hope is that the Braves will improve week by week and be ready to roll when the playoffs arrive.

A year ago, Heard County dropped two of its first three games before ripping off 12 straight wins.

Gibbs is looking forward to seeing how his team measures up against an elite opponent.

“I’m anxious to go against a really good team, that’s probably as good and well-coached as any team on our schedule, and see where we are,” Gibbs said.

LAGRANGE VS. HEARD COUNTY

WHEN: Friday, 7:30 p.m.

WHERE: Heard County

LAST YEAR: LaGrange went 2-8; Heard County went 13-2 and won the Class AA state championship

LAST MEETING: Heard County beat LaGrange 10-3 at