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LaGrange defense puts in solid work in scrimmage

Kobe Jones has made a name for himself as a basketball player at LaGrange High.

Jones stepped into the starting lineup as a freshman, and he has had two outstanding seasons as the Grangers’ point guard.

Now Jones is looking to contribute in a different sport, and he made his debut of sorts in football during last week’s intra-squad scrimmage at Callaway Stadium.

Jones started at cornerback and did a solid job, earning the praise of defensive coordinator Burton Thomas.

Thomas also recognized linebacker Valshawn Patterson, defensive lineman David Paredes, and linebacker Jarno Huzzie for their stellar work during the scrimmage.

“We did a lot of good things defensively, but we still have a ways to go,” Thomas said.

As for Jones, first-year head football coach Matt Napier is glad he decided to give football a try after exclusively playing basketball as a freshman and a sophomore.

Napier said it didn’t take Jones long to make  an impression during practice this summer.

“He came out (to his first practice), and all the coaches were standing out there going, are you kidding me?,” Napier said. “He’s a special talent.”

Another basketball player, senior Javon Brown, has also decided to come out and play football for his senior season.

Napier believes having basketball players cross over to play football will benefit both teams.

“Hopefully we’ll get that path going,” Napier said. “It’ll make us tougher for basketball, and make our football team better with that quality of athlete.”

Jones is part of a defense that has a lot of first-time starters, and that group gave up some scoring plays in Friday’s scrimmage but fared well for the most part.

“The defense had a really good night. I’m proud of them,” Napier said. “The great thing about that is, we’ve had some struggles defensively at practice. It’s good for them to come out here and show out on Friday night.”

One of the leaders of the defense is junior David Paredes, who has made the transition from linebacker to the defensive line.

“He’s a big kid that’s explosive,” Napier said of Paredes. “He’ll do a really good job for us.”

Sophomore linebacker Valshawn Patterson and senior linebacker Jarno Huzzie, meanwhile, were flying all over the field on Friday.

While Huzzie is a veteran, most of the linebackers are getting their first taste of varsity football.

“We’re super-young, but those kids are physical, and talented,” Napier said. “They’re fast. We’re excited about the future with those guys.”

Offensively, LaGrange got a pair of touchdown runs from senior Kale Gibbs, and Asa Leath also had a scoring run.

Sophomore Jaylan Brown, making his debut as LaGrange’s quarterback, was able to get his feet wet at Callaway Stadium, and he had some nice moments making plays with his legs and his throwing arm.

One of Brown’s completions went to talented freshman tight end Parker Shattuck, who will also be LaGrange’s punter.

Shattuck is one of the players who Napier is looking forward to building the program around over the next few years.

“He’s really versatile,” Napier said. “He can stand up and play the slot position, put his hand down, or play that H-back role. That’s why I think he can potentially play at the next level because he possesses those qualities of a lot of guys I’ve had the opportunity to coach, and he’s only going to get better and bigger and faster and stronger. I’m excited about his future.”

LaGrange will now turn its attention to the season opener on Sept. 4 against Upson-Lee, and Napier is looking forward to leading the team into action.

“We’ve got a quality group of about 10 seniors that we’re excited about,” Napier said. “Outside of that we’re young, and we know that. There’s potential to be really successful this year if we can get everybody on the right page and continue to play with great effort and be coachable and do all those things right.”