Grangers hope to close with win
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
They’re hoping to end a difficult season on a positive note.
The LaGrange Grangers (2-7 overall), who finished off a winless Region 5-AAAA schedule with last week’s 35-10 loss to Chapel Hill, will host the Shaw Raiders on Thursday in their season finale.
If the Grangers prevail, they’ll win their most games since the 2015 season when they went 5-5.
“Every win matters to our program,” said Chuck Gibbs, LaGrange’s second-year head coach. “The truth is, wins matter, especially when you’re rebuilding.”
Gibbs is hopeful that a group of seniors who haven’t had many wins to celebrate over the years will be able to exit the high-school
stage with a victory.
Since the start of the 2016 season, the Grangers have won six games, including one on their home field.
“This week, I do something called senior reflections. I let each senior talk to their team about what the four years have meant for them,” Gibbs said.
After the seniors were done speaking, Gibbs addressed them.
“You’ve stuck it out,” Gibbs said, referencing his remarks to the seniors. “Tomorrow night, you have to play for each other.”
The Grangers began the season in promising fashion with wins in two of their first three games, but they were unable to carry that momentum into their region schedule.
LaGrange opened region play with a tough 17-14 loss to Central-Carroll, and it followed that up with five more region setbacks.
An unfortunate part of the story for the Grangers this season has been injuries.
LaGrange has been decimated by injuries, particularly on the offensive side of the ball, with linemen, running backs and wide receivers falling out with staggering regularity.
Players who likely didn’t think they would sniff the field in a varsity game have been forced into action because of the injuries.
In the opener against Heard County, LaGrange scored a season-best 24 points.
Two of the men who scored touchdowns in that game, wide receiver Logan Karcher and running back Kale Gibbs, are among the players who suffered season-ending injuries.
A handful of other play-makers on offense, as well as most of the offensive linemen, have also missed time with injuries.
Three wide receivers who Gibbs was counting on to help open things up offensively have been lost to injuries.
The one constant has been the presence of quarterback Charles Crawford, although he’s lost most of the weapons he had at the start of the season.
Also making it through to the end is senior receiver Cole Crawford, who has been terrific in his only season as a football player.
“When you lose your better players, AJ Traylor, Logan Karcher, Dylan Norvell, you don’t have the ability to spread the field vertically,” Gibbs said. “You can play your safeties seven yards off the ball and know you’re not going to get beat deep.”
LaGrange’s opponent is a Shaw team that can secure a winning season with a victory.
The Raiders (5-4 overall) finished with a 4-4 record in Region 1-AAAA, but they weren’t able to qualify for the state playoffs.
“They’re extremely talented,” Gibbs said. “I scouted them against Carver, and they gave Carver everything they wanted for the first half. Coach (Al) Pelligrino, he’s got kids that are playing hard.”
LAGRANGE VS. SHAW
WHEN: Thursday, 7 p.m.
WHERE: Callaway Stadium
RECORDS: LaGrange (2-7); Shaw (5-4)
LAST YEAR: LaGrange beat Shaw 16-14