Gutsy win for Grangers
Published 8:31 pm Monday, September 16, 2019
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
They kept fighting, kept clawing, kept pushing, and found a way.
On a night where plenty went wrong, including some costly injuries to key players, the LaGrange Grangers ended up on the right end of the scoreboard against Hampton on Saturday night at Callaway Stadium.
Hampton had the ball at the end with an opportunity to drive for a potential winning touchdown, but LaGrange’s defense made a late stand to preserve an 18-14 victory.
Thad Dixon came up with an interception with less than a minute left, and LaGrange ran one kneel-down play before time expired.
LaGrange improved to 2-1 heading into the start of Region 5-AAAA play on Sept. 27 against Central-Carroll.
While it wasn’t a flawless effort, LaGrange head coach Chuck Gibbs couldn’t question the effort of the players.
“You can’t rip these kids,” Gibbs said. “When you see the
perseverance of these kids, tonight kind of felt like the end of last year when it didn’t matter if we were winning or losing, we weren’t quitting. I love that attitude.”
Trailing 14-12 at the half, LaGrange took the 18-14 lead midway through the third quarter on a 10-yard touchdown pass from Charles Crawford to Adrian Traylor.
That was it for the scoring, with LaGrange’s defense coming up big time after time to preserve the slim lead.
“We never give up,” said junior Caleb Ross, who contributed on both sides of the ball. “We fought to the end. We had a couple of penalties in the first half and went down. We went into the locker room and got the adjustments and won the game.”
Already short-handed because of injuries, some other players were banged up during the game, including senior wide receiver Logan Karcher who suffered a shoulder injury after making a phenomenal diving catch in the first half.
Quarterback Charles Crawford also had a tough night.
Crawford hurt two fingers on his left hand, possibly breaking them, and in the second half he was hit on the helmet and suffered a severe laceration to his head.
Crawford only missed a handful of plays, though, and was able to help his team get a much-needed home win.
“Going into the locker room (at the half), nobody was panicking,” Crawford said. “We had confidence coming out, and confidence driving the ball. That was key.”
For Crawford, the thought of not playing after the injuries never crossed his mind.
After he injured his fingers, with one of them pointing in the wrong direction according to Gibbs, the training staff ended up taping them together and applying some padding to lessen the pain.
“It didn’t hurt enough to stay out,” Crawford said. “It was just a matter of getting the finger back in place, and I was ready to go.”
The Grangers scored three touchdowns, and that was enough.
In the first quarter, Crawford hooked up with Dylan Norvell for a 26-yard touchdown pass to cut Hampton’s lead to 7-6.
In the second quarter, senior defensive lineman Dawson Jones returned a fumble five yards for a touchdown, and LaGrange led 12-7 following an unsuccessful two-point attempt.
Hampton answered with a touchdown to take a 14-12, which was the score at the half.
On their first possession of the second half, the Grangers drove 38 yards for the go-ahead touchdown with Crawford throwing an 11-yard scoring pass to Adrian Traylor, and once again the two-point try fell short.
Hampton had its chances after that.
Most notably, Hampton made it as far as the LaGrange 1-yard line, but that threat ended when Norvell made an interception in the end zone.
Hampton’s final chance came when it got the ball at its own 32-yard line with 51 seconds to play.
On first down, Ross beat his defender and got the sack, and Dixon got an interception on the next to play to put an exclamation point on the victory.
“They stepped up to the challenge,” Gibbs said. “We challenged them after a bad performance (against Callaway), a down performance last week, and they rose to the occasion tonight.”
While the ending was a happy one, the start wasn’t what the Grangers were hoping.
After an early fumble, Hampton scored a touchdown to take a 7-0 lead.
Hampton was back in LaGrange territory on its next possession when Jamari Cameron made a big sack on fourth down to end that threat.
The Grangers promptly went 64 yards for their first touchdown of the game.
After Crawford found Norvell for a 25-yard completion, Andre Canty ripped off a 14-yard run to put the ball on the Hampton 26-yard line.
On the next play, Crawford and Norvell connected for a 26-yard touchdown, and Hampton led 7-6 with 4:18 left in the first quarter.
Early in the second quarter it was the defense’s turn to put points on the scoreboard.
When Hampton’s quarterback attempted a handoff, the ball popped into the air and into the arms of Jones, who rumbled five yards into the end zone for the touchdown.
With 9:31 left in the first half, LaGrange was ahead 12-7.
Hampton scored on a 50-yard run a few minutes later to go ahead 14-12, and LaGrange trailed by two at the half.
LaGrange’s defense forced a three-and-out to begin the second half, and the offense went to work at the Hampton 38-yard line after a short punt.
Crawford capped that drive by dropping a perfectly-thrown 10-yard pass into the arms of Traylor in the left corner of the end zone, and LaGrange led 18-14 with 5:30 to play in the third quarter.
Hampton threatened to reclaim the lead on its ensuing possession, but LaGrange’s defense stood tall.
Hampton made it as far as the LaGrange 1-yard line before a bad snap pushed the ball back nearly 15 yards.
On fourth down, Norvell made a big-time defensive play, catching his own deflection for the interception.
In the fourth quarter, Crawford showed off his versatility when his 56-yard punt pinned Hampton at its own 15-yard line.
After a Hampton punt, LaGrange chewed up three valuable minutes of clock time before a fourth-down play failed.
With less than a minute to work with, Hampton was unable to get anything going, and Dixon ended the suspense with his interception.