Grangers chase key region win
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
They’re banged-up and short-handed, but the LaGrange Grangers are still in the fight.
LaGrange, which has been hit hard by injuries this season, faces a critical Region 5-AAAA showdown at Cedartown on Friday.
LaGrange (2-2 overall) lost a 17-14 heart-breaker to Central-Carroll last week in its region opener, which makes this week’s game that much important.
While LaGrange wouldn’t be eliminated from playoff contention with a loss, it’s chances would be greatly diminished, especially with a brutal three-game stretch coming up against Cartersville, Troup and Sandy Creek, who have one loss between them.
“Winning would cure a lot of ailments at the moment,” said Chuck Gibbs, LaGrange’s second-year head coach. “Our kids, and our program, and our community probably need it more than ever. It weighs heavy on you for not being able to deliver. You want to win for your kids. You talk about a breath of fresh air, and a wind in your sails. These kids need it.”
Cedartown (1-4 overall) hung tough with Cartersville last week before losing 24-2.
The Bulldogs performed admirably on defense, but they were unable to get much going on offense, despite the presence of running back Kobe Pryor, who has committed to Clemson.
While Pryor didn’t do much on offense, Gibbs said his presence was felt in a major way from his defensive-line position.
“He’s almost unblockable,” Gibbs said.
For LaGrange, an unfortunate story of the season has been injuries.
That trend continued last week, with more players getting hurt, and Gibbs said the current roster looks drastically different than the one from a few months ago.
“You almost hate going into games knowing you have to count on breaks. But you look at our summer roster, and you look at our roster now, we’re two separate teams,” Gibbs said. “We’re a skeleton of what we should have been. We finished practice yesterday with five offensive linemen. We started the summer with 19.”
Gibbs also said all three starting receivers are out with injuries, as is a running back, and a handful of other key players on both sides of the ball.
Despite that, LaGrange was right there last week with an opportunity to win.
Twice in the second half the Grangers fought back from a 10-point deficit to get within three.
In the third quarter with LaGrange trailing 10-0, Caleb Ross looked like he was going to be tackled for a loss, but he managed to stay on his feet, and he got to the sideline and beat the Central-Carroll defense for a 65-yard touchdown.
In the fourth quarter, with Central leading 17-7, Charles Crawford tossed a 1-yard touchdown pass to Sam Yates to make it a 17-14 game.
After the Grangers recovered a fumble, they had one last chance to tie it with a field goal, or take the lead with a touchdown.
The Grangers made it deep into Lions’ territory in the closing moments when an interception sealed their fate.
There were bright spots offensively.
While Crawford continued to stand tall and effectively lead the offense, tight end Cole Crawford had his best game of the season.
Cole Crawford, a senior playing football for the first time, had catches of 28 and 27 yards on LaGrange’s final touchdown drive.
Crawford also had two catches right before the half on a drive that ended with a missed field-goal attempt.
“He played great,” Gibbs said. “He’s put in the work, and the time.”
Ross showed off his big-play ability with his touchdown run, and senior wide receiver Dylan Norvell had a critical catch and run for a first down during LaGrange’s late-game drive that ended with the interception.
LaGrange’s defense did a nice job of limiting the damage and holding Central-Carroll to 17 points.
Yet when the final horn sounded, it was Central walking away with the win.
“Last Friday was a setback,” Gibbs said. “I really felt like we should have been the better team, and we should have won. Again, it goes back to getting over the hump, and teaching our kids to win, and us being efficient enough where we can win.”
LAGRANGE VS. CEDARTOWN
WHEN: Friday, 7:30 p.m.
RECORDS: LaGrange (2-2, 0-1 in Region 5-AAAA); Cedartown (1-1, 0-1 in Region 5-AA)
LAST YEAR: Cedartown beat LaGrange 9-6