Big-time challenge for LaGrange
Published 11:28 pm Thursday, October 10, 2019
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
The short-handed LaGrange Grangers will give it their best shot on Friday night when they host the powerful Cartersville Purple Hurricanes.
It’s been a tough season for the Grangers from an injury standpoint, and things only got worse during last week’s 51-6 loss to the Cedartown Bulldogs.
By head coach Chuck Gibbs’ account, 28 players on the team are on the injury report, and another six players are no longer on the team for other reasons.
“We’re trying to figure out how to get 11 kids on the field in the right position,” Gibbs said on Thursday afternoon, a little more than 24 hours before his team was set to face unbeaten Cartersville.
Gibbs ran down a list of the players who are injured, including seven of the eight wide receivers who were healthy for the season opener against Heard County
LaGrange has also been hit hard by injuries on the offensive line and the defensive line, as well as at running back.
“I never in my wildest imagination thought we’d lose this many kids. How could you?,” Gibbs said. “Who loses seven of their top eight receivers, who loses three of their top five running backs? Who loses six of their top nine linemen?”
Gibbs is relying on players who, without the injuries, would have been strictly reserve players.
“They’re not backups now. They’re kids that have to start,” Gibbs said. “We’re starting kids that have been lifetime scout-team players. We’re glad they stuck around for four years because now they’re starters, and now they’re getting an opportunity to play a lot. I’ve tried to tell these kids I know the season’s been rough, but aren’t you having a blast. You’re getting an opportunity.”
Despite the injuries, the show will go on, and LaGrange will take the field on Friday night against a Cartersville team that has lost a total of six games since the start of the 2014 season.
Cartersville, which won back-to-back state championships in 2015 and 2016, has won 54 consecutive regular-season games overall, and it hasn’t lost a region game since 2011.
Cartersville (6-0 overall) is 2-0 in Region 5-AAAA this season, while LaGrange (2-3 overall) is 0-2 in region play following last week’s loss to Cedartown.
For Gibbs, it’s all about managing the roster, and putting the best possible team he can on the field.
“We’re trying to figure out how we can salvage everything we can salvage, and get the young guys in and get them some experience,” Gibbs said.
Through it all, Gibbs has a core group of players he’s been able to count on, including offensive linemen Will Flowers, Trudarious Moses and wide receiver Cole Crawford.
“Those three have been our quiet leaders,” Gibbs said. “They’ve taken every snap.”
Last week against Cedartown, Flowers and Moses kept pushing until the end, helping LaGrange put the ball in the end zone on a touchdown run by sophomore running back Asa Leath.
“Moses, and Flowers, they came in (in the fourth quarter) and said coach, let us play center and guard and put the JV offense in, and we’ll help them,” Gibbs said. “Will is sitting there coaching every linemen and the running back on every play, and we go down and score.”
Cartersville is led by senior quarterback Tee Webb, who has committed to Louisville.
Webb has completed 61-of-101 passes for 1,083 yards with 10 touchdowns.
Defensively, Cartersville has held its six opponents to an average of six points per game, which presents a challenge to a LaGrange offense with a lot of inexperienced players.
“You have to be content going into a game content to get two, or three yards, and hopefully one of them will push to five yards so you can get a first down,” Gibbs said.
LAGRANGE VS. CARTERSVILLE
WHEN: Friday, 7:30 p.m.
WHERE: Callaway Stadium
RECORDS: LaGrange (2-3 overall, 0-2 in Region 5-AAAA); Cartersville (6-0 overall, 0-2 in Region 5-AAAA)