Grangers overcome slow start
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
It wasn’t the start they were looking for.
Coming off a challenging 2018 season, the LaGrange Grangers were hoping to get things started with a big road win over Heard County on Friday night.
Early on, though, it was Heard County surging to a 9-0 lead after making a field goal and hitting on a long pass play.
Fortunately for the Grangers, they got their feet under them and ended up rolling to a dominant 24-9 victory.
While LaGrange’s offense had a successful night and found the end zone three times, the defense held Heard County to three first downs, and none after the first quarter.
LaGrange is off this week, and it will play rival Callaway on Sept. 6 at Callaway Stadium.
LaGrange quarterback Charles Crawford said it was “incredibly important” to get things started with a win.
“I don’t think anybody on this team has started 1-0,” Crawford added. “Just having that confidence going into the off week, having that confidence going into the Callaway game is huge.”
When Heard County got a 58-yard touchdown pass from Leroy Marsh to Macaiah Austin midway through the first quarter, it led 9-0.
The Grangers soon began to impose their will on the Braves, particularly on defense.
After finding some success on its first two possessions, Heard County’s offense was shut down by LaGrange.
The Grangers rallied to take a 10-9 lead at the half, and they added two more touchdowns in the second half to win going away.
Kaleb Ceja got LaGrange on the board with a 26-yard field goal early in the second quarter.
Later in the second quarter, Crawford hooked up with Logan Karcher for a 22-yard touchdown pass, and Micah Prophett made the extra point to give LaGrange the 10-9 lead.
Kale Gibbs had a 47-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, and Prophett converted the extra point to push the lead to 17-9.
In the fourth quarter, Crawford’s 38-yard scoring run and Ceja’s extra point capped the scoring.
“Throughout the whole summer we were working hard,” said junior Adrian Traylor, who had a monster game with six catches and two interceptions. “I feel like we just came together as a team today. We knew we had to get this win.”
LaGrange’s offense was led by Crawford, who did damage with his right arm, as well as his legs.
Crawford ran for 73 yards on four carries, and it was his scoring run in the fourth quarter that basically salted the game away.
Crawford also had a first-down run in the second half when he carried some defenders with him for the final few yards, showing off his toughness and will.
“I’m not really known for my running, so when I make a big run like that it gets everybody hyped up,” Crawford said. “I’m fighting for that yard. In the first half we struggled to get first downs, and to sustain drives, so it’s anything and everything to get that first down.”
Through the air, Crawford completed 12-of-22 passes for 84 yards with the touchdown pass to Karcher.
Kale Gibbs headlined the rushing attack with 80 yards on eight carries and a touchdown, and he also caught two passes for 28 yards.
LaGrange’s defense was suffocating.
Senior defensive lineman Jamari Cameron led LaGrange with nine tackles, and senior linebacker Qua Bowles and sophomore defensive back David Paredes had six tackles apiece.
Senior Andraka Martin, who teams with Bowles to give LaGrange an imposing linebacker duo, added five tackles.
“With Andraka and Bowles at our two linebacker spots, our defense is going to be pretty stinkin’ good,” Gibbs said.
LaGrange also picked off three passes.
Traylor had two interceptions, and senior Charles Miller had one.
It was a breakout game for Traylor, a standout on both sides of the ball.
“It’s a team sport,” Traylor said. “I couldn’t do it without my teammates, and they just encouraged me throughout the game to play hard every play, and keep on playing every down with all I’ve got.”
It was a complete performance in every way, giving LaGrange a break-through win over a Heard County team that won the Class AA state championship last season but is in rebuilding mode this year after losing so many players.
“Going 1-0 is everything,” Gibbs said. “You’re not starting in a hole. You’re ahead, and they’re a local rival for us.”
Gibbs also expects Heard County to improve as the season goes along, just as it did a year ago. The Braves were 1-2 last season before ripping off 13 straight wins under head coach Tim Barron.
“Hats off to coach Barron,” Gibbs said. “They have a very talented team. They will be a much different, a much-improved team over the next four weeks.”