LaGrange wins overtime thriller
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
The Northside Patriots didn’t go down without a fight, but when the lights went out at Callaway Stadium on Thursday night, it was the LaGrange Grangers celebrating a thrilling 35-28 win.
The Grangers appeared to have things in hand after taking a 28-7 lead in the third quarter, but the Patriots charged back and tied it at 28-28 at the close of regulation to force overtime.
LaGrange got the ball first in overtime, and senior wide receiver AJ Traylor caught a 15-yard touchdown pass from Jaylan Brown to give the home team the lead.
The defense then did its part, with Kobe Jones coming through with an interception to end the suspense and give LaGrange its first win of the season after an opening-night loss to Upson-Lee.
It wasn’t a flawless performance, but the LaGrange players and coaches were nonetheless all smiles following the hard-earned win.
“You’ll take them any way you can get them,” said LaGrange head coach Matt Napier. “I’ve been doing this a long time, and that feels a lot better than losing.”
Kale Gibbs, LaGrange’s outstanding senior running back, had a monster night that included two touchdown runs, and Caleb Ross also had a scoring run.
LaGrange also got it done through the air, with Brown tossing touchdown passes to Traylor and Jones.
The scoring pass to Jones that covered 61 yards gave the Grangers a 28-7 lead midway through the third quarter, and the Patriots answered with three touchdowns of their own to pull even.
LaGrange shook off the late-game slide to win in overtime to avoid what would have been a painful loss.
“It’ll definitely give us momentum heading into the next week, but the thing is, it should not have gone to overtime,” Gibbs said. “It should not have been that close of a game. We should have anchored it down more, and we’ll fix the small things.”
While things didn’t go well to end regulation, the Grangers did come through with a big-time play in overtime to take the lead.
Brown, LaGrange’s first-year starter at quarterback, tossed a strike to Traylor, who made a defender miss and raced into the end zone for the 15-yard touchdown.
Micah Prophett converted his fifth extra point to put LaGrange on top 35-28.
Gibbs had a perfect view of the go-ahead touchdown, and he appreciates the work the offensive linemen did to help make the play work.
“The best part of that was, up close, I could see all the linemen all had their blocks, and (Brown) had time to get it done,” Gibbs said. “They had it sealed off, and AJ just ran a nice route and finished in the end zone.”
The Grangers still needed to make a defensive stop, and they did just that, with Jones putting the finishing touches on the victory with his interception.
Jones was beaten earlier in the second half by a Northside receiver, but he didn’t let that impact his performance the rest of the game.
“Kobe is a phenomenal athlete,” Napier said. “He had a lapse, and then he turns around and makes a play like that.”
Early on, it was all LaGrange.
After Northside went three-and-out on its opening possession, LaGrange went to work and drove 54 yards in four plays to take the lead.
Gibbs had runs of 30 yards and 22 yards to put the ball deep in Northside territory to set up a Ross 7-yard scoring run, and Prophett’s extra point gave LaGrange a 7-0 lead with 9:09 left in the first quarter.
LaGrange padded its lead with a touchdown early in the second quarter, with Gibbs scoring on a 1-yard run one play after Ross was tackled just short of the end zone following a 22-yard run.
Northside cut into its deficit when it scored on a touchdown pass when the ball deflected off a LaGrange defender and right into the arms of the receiver, who waltzed into the end zone.
With the extra point, LaGrange’s lead was down to 14-7 with 2:26 left in the second quarter, and that was the score at the half.
It didn’t take the Grangers long to push their lead back to 14 points in the second half.
On LaGrange’s opening possession in the third quarter, Gibbs took a handoff from Brown and raced 57 yards for the touchdown, and Prophett’s extra point made it a 21-7 game.
When the Grangers got the ball back, they showed off their explosiveness in the passing game, with Brown finding Jones for the 61-yard touchdown.
Brown rolled to his right, avoided a few Northside defenders, and threw a strike to Jones, who collected the ball at the 15-yard line and sprinted into the end zone for the score, and LaGrange led 28-7 with 5:58 left in the third quarter.
The Patriots came charging back, and a touchdown and two-point conversion with 1:09 to play tied it at 28-28.
Montavious Martin returned the ensuing kickoff to the Northside 37-yard line, and a Gibbs 6-yard run on third down set up a game-winning field goal attempt, but Christian Ceja’s 45-yard attempt came up short.
The Patriots ran a kneel-down play and time ran out, and it was onto overtime where the Grangers won it in dramatic fashion.
“We dominated the game early, but we couldn’t finish it,” Napier said. “And kudos to their guys and their staff. Their coach does a heck of a job calling plays. I’m proud of the kids. I’m proud to get a win.”