Unstoppable night for LaGrange offense
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
Seven times the LaGrange Grangers had the ball in the first half, and seven times they found the end zone.
An offense can’t be more efficient than that.
With the offense scoring at will and the first-team defense getting the job done, LaGrange enjoyed an easy night at the office last week on the way to a 48-14 victory over the Kendrick Cherokees at Memorial Stadium in Columbus.
LaGrange (3-1 overall) not only won three straight games for the first time since 2010, but it improved to 2-0 in Region 2-AAAA.
“We want to keep building our team,” said Matt Napier, LaGrange’s first-year head coach. “I know I keep harping on that. We want to get better every game, and get better every practice. We felt we executed well. We came out and were seven-for-seven on offense with drives for touchdowns, and no turnovers. We created some turnovers from a defensive standpoint. We had an interception, we had a forced fumble. So those things are important. Anytime you can execute like that, it’s always a positive. We’ve got a lot of young guys playing, and they’re getting better every week. I’m really pleased with where we are in the scheme of things as far as our team improving every week.”
One player who continues to excel is sophomore quarterback Jaylan Brown, who had a brilliant night against Kendrick. Brown completed 8-of-10 pass attempts for 145 yards with three touchdowns, giving him nine scoring passes on the season, and he carried the ball six times for 57 yards with two touchdowns.
“He’s done a tremendous job of grasping things really quickly,” Napier said. “He didn’t get spring, he didn’t get summer seven-on-sevens, and he’s just a 10th-grader. I think he’s grasping things really well.”
From the first game against Upson-Lee when Brown completed fewer than 50 percent of his passes until now, Napier said Brown has “definitely improved.”
“I thought early in the season, he was still going through the process of learning, and things are slowing down for him,” Napier added. “He’s done a tremendous job just kind of taking the keys and taking off.”
Brown completed passes to six different receivers, including Kobe Jones, AJ Traylor and Parker Shattuck who each had scoring catches.
Magic Johnson and Tristan Smith each had two catches, and fullback Towson Partin caught two passes for 41 yards.
With leading rusher Kale Gibbs unavailable because of an injury, Asa Leath had eight carries for 57 yards with a touchdown.
Trae Cole had two carries for 20 yards, and Partin had one run for 24 yards.
As has been the case throughout the season, LaGrange’s offensive line got it done, with a number of different players contributing.
“Coach (David) Pleasants has done a good job of preparing those guys,” Napier said. “A couple of those guys are really excelling. Qua Thornton is really playing well, and I’m really pleased with that. KT Owens is our freshman center and he’s doing really well. Jackson Dennis, and Kavarious Perry, Elijah Quimbayo, and Brandon Wortham, and we slip (defensive lineman) Thad Dixon in there when we can. He’s a really good offensive player, but he plays so much on defense. Especially as it cools down, we’ll play him more and more. I’m really pleased with that group. That’s a smart group, and they pick things up well. They’ve had a lot of different fronts thrown at them, and coach has done a good job of preparing those guys each week, and they’ll continue to get after it.”
LaGrange’s first-team defense gave up a first-half touchdown to Kendrick but was dominant otherwise.
Linebacker Jarno Huzzie, who is having a phenomenal senior season, led the way with 12 tackles, and Isaiah Jordan had five tackles.
Kway Coverson recovered two fumbles, and other key defensive contributors were Lataurus Swindle, Tyreeq Carston, Koron Smith, JD McCutcheon, Montavious Martin, and Jeffery Sims, who had an interception.
“Lataurus Swindle was our captain for the team,” Napier said. “He’s a leader for our defense, and he’s a special player. And Jarno Huzzie continues to make tackle after tackle.”
Unfortunately for LaGrange, Sims suffered a broken collarbone and will be out of action for a while.
“He’s done such a great job, and he’ll get back as quick as a he can,” Napier said. “He’s definitely been an impact player for our defense, and we’ll miss him, but that’s part of the game, and you’ve got to have guys step up.”
With LaGrange ahead 48-8 at the half and the game effectively over, Napier made sure everyone varsity player got an opportunity to get in the game.
“It was good to get all of the players in,” Napier said. “Everybody in a LaGrange uniform got out there and played in the game, and anytime you can do that, it’s good for the morale of the team. Those guys come in and they deserve to play. They bust their butts, and you’re giving young guys an opportunity to go out there and get reps and play for the future. A lot of young guys got to play and get live snaps on a Friday night, so we were happy about that for sure.”