Grangers hang tough in loss
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
Sometimes, the final score doesn’t tell the whole story.
The LaGrange Grangers lost to an unbeaten Cartersville team 45-2 on Friday night at Callaway Stadium, but head coach Chuck Gibbs had a smile on his face after the game.
The Grangers were extremely short-handed because of injuries, forcing a number of players with minimal varsity experience to take on starting roles.
Despite that, LaGrange hung tough for much of the night, with Cartersville’s starters staying in the game until the closing moments.
LaGrange trailed 29-2 at the half, and that’s the way it remained until Cartersville scored a touchdown in the final seconds of the third quarter.
Cartersville added another touchdown late in the fourth quarter to cap the scoring.
While the Grangers didn’t score any points on offense, they moved the well at times and had their chances, but they were unable to convert.
It was, despite the lop-sided final score, a positive night as far as Gibbs was concerned.
“One of (the players) made the comment to me that this was one of the funnest games I’ve played in,” Gibbs said. “We played with freedom tonight. My speech to them tonight was all about potential. Nobody can take your potential out of you. You can unleash it, or you can hold onto it.”
LaGrange (2-4 overall) fell to 0-3 in Region 5-AAAA heading into next week’s showdown with Troup.
“We weren’t great tonight,” Gibbs said. “But there were a lot of positives to build on, and for the kids to start to see it. Our deal in the second half was, let’s go out and practice for Troup now. Let’s get better at who we are.”
Early on, the home fans had reason to cheer.
The Grangers began the game with a recovered onside kick, but they were unable to move the ball and were forced to punt.
Charles Crawford, LaGrange’s quarterback and punter, got off a terrific punt and pinned Cartersville inside its 1-yard line.
On third down, Thad Dixon got his hand up and deflected a pass attempt, and the ball landed in the arms of Cartersville quarterback Tee Webb, who threw the ball out of the back of the end zone for a safety, giving LaGrange its only two points of the game.
On their second offensive possession, the Purple Hurricanes found the end zone, with Webb hooking up with Devonte Ross for a 60-yard touchdown with 4:33 left in the first quarter.
Later in the quarter, Webb tossed a 40-yard touchdown pass to Kyler Johnson, and the extra point made it a 14-2 game.
Cartersville looked like it was going to score another touchdown in the second quarter after making it to the 3-yard line, but LaGrange’s defense stood firm and forced a 21-yard field goal by Oscar Hernandez.
The Purple Hurricanes did score a touchdown the next time they had the ball, with Evan Slocum taking a screen pass from Webb and racing 49 yards for a touchdown.
With less than two minutes to play in the half, Webb scored on a 2-yard run, giving Cartersville a 29-2 lead.
In the third quarter, Jacquez Smith made the defensive play of the game for LaGrange when he intercepted a Webb pass.
Smith reached out and deflected the ball, and the junior was able to make the catch while falling down to give LaGrange the ball in Cartersville territory.
The Grangers picked up a first down before they were stopped, and a field-goal attempt was unsuccessful.
Cartersville’s second possession of the second half ended with a punt, and LaGrange picked up two first downs with Caleb Ross delivering some strong runs, including one that covered 13 yards.
Once again the Grangers were denied, though, with the drive ending with a failed fourth-down play.
“We stopped ourselves on a few drives,” Gibbs said. “We had opportunities to put points on the board, but we couldn’t finish those drives.”
Cartersville scored its first second-half touchdown late in the third quarter, with Webb tossing a 27-yard scoring pass to Kyler Johnson.
With 2:02 to play, Stratton Tripp scored on an 11-yard run to cap the scoring.
“I’m proud of the kids. I’m proud of the coaching staff,” Gibbs said. “Everybody worked together this week. We knew it was going to be tough.”
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