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Grangers continue turnaround season

By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY

Daily News

The LaGrange Grangers continued their turnaround season with a convincing home win over the overmatched Jordan Red Jackets on a chilly Thursday evening at Callaway Stadium.

LaGrange, which has won more games this season than in the previous three years combined, surged to a 40-0 halftime lead, and it eased to a 47-14 victory in the Region 2-AAAA game.

LaGrange (5-2 overall) won for the fifth time in six games since a season-opening loss to Upson-Lee, and it improved to 4-1 in region play.

LaGrange, which has three regular-season games remaining, can secure its first state-playoff invitation since 2015 with a win over Spencer next Thursday.

LaGrange closes the regular season against two of the region’s top teams, Troup and Hardaway.

The Grangers haven’t won more than two games in a season since 2015, so the players are enjoying being on the other end of the equation this fall.

“It’s great to finally be on the winning side,” said senior running back Kale Gibbs, who had four touchdown runs against Jordan, all in the first half. “When you’re struggling as a program, some kids won’t believe in it, but now that we’re having success, you can see the future for LaGrange is really bright.”

Junior Tae Snead, who caught a touchdown pass from Jaylan Brown in the first half, is also enjoying being on the winning side of things after some lean years.

“It’s very fun, just to see the program turning around,” said Snead, who was a standout player on offense and defense against Jordan “Coach (Matt) Napier, he makes it fun.”

LaGrange was coming off a 36-14 loss to unbeaten Carver, and Napier’s main concern was making sure the players performed at a high level in a game where there wasn’t much doubt about the outcome.

“We talked about doing the little things right, and we continued to improve on that,” Napier said. “I thought tonight was a step in the right direction.”

Gibbs, who is closing in on 1,000 yards during what has been an exceptional senior season, led the offensive effort with touchdown runs of 31, 16, seven and one yard.

Fullback Towson Partin also found the end zone with a 1-yard scoring run, and Brown tossed a 35-yard touchdown pass to Snead.

LaGrange’s first-team defense, meanwhile, didn’t give up much of anything during a dominant first half.

“We came out strong,” Gibbs said. “We’re playing against a team that’s not as good, and you know you’re most likely going to win. You want to come out and no matter what, we wanted to make sure we were as close to perfect as we could get in the first half with our starters. If we can chase perfection, then we’ll catch greatness.”

In the second half, Napier made sure everyone on the team got some playing time, and Asa Leath had a 42-yard touchdown run.

Jordan scored a pair of touchdown against LaGrange’s reserve defensive players, but Napier was nonetheless happy with the performance of the backups.

“I’m proud of their effort, and proud of those guys getting in,” Napier said. “It’s a positive step for our future.”

The Grangers crossed the goal line on their first offensive possession, with Gibbs capping a 50-yard drive with a 7-yard touchdown run, moments after he ripped off a 40-yard run to put the ball deep in Red Jackets’ territory.

Following a Jordan punt LaGrange’s offense went back to work, with Brown hooking up with a wide-open Snead for a 35-yard touchdown, and Micah Prophett made the extra point to give the home tem a 13-0 lead.

It was Snead’s first scoring catch of the season, and while he’s always happy to celebrate a touchdown, the outcome of the game is the main thing he’s concerned about.

“I come in every game hoping I get (a touchdown), but if I don’t, I don’t let it bother me,” Snead said. “As long as we win, I’m all right.”

The Grangers padded their lead the next time they had the ball, with Gibbs scoring on a 1-yard run, three plays after Brown completed a 16-yard pass to Snead. Prophett’s extra point made it a 20-0 game with 2:21 left in the first quarter.

After a Jordan fourth-down play failed early in the second quarter, LaGrange went 77 yards in 10 plays to extend its lead.

The big play on the drive was a 20-yard catch by Kobe Jones where he outdueled the defender for the ball, and Gibbs followed with an 11-yard run to put the ball inside the Jordan 10-yard line.

Partin nearly scored before being stopped at the 1-yard line, and the sophomore fullback found the end zone on the next play, and the lead was 26-0 with 5:44 to play in the first half.

Jordan went three-and-out on its ensuing possession, and Trae Cole set LaGrange up in prime position with a punt return to the 16-yard line.

On the next play, Gibbs beat the Jordan defense for a 16-yard scoring run, and Prophett made the extra point to give LaGrange a 33-0 cushion with 3:12 remaining in the opening half.

Following a short Jordan punt, the Grangers capped the first-half scoring with a 31-yard touchdown run by Gibbs, and Prophett converted the extra-point attempt to put the Red Jackets in a 40-0 hole.

Early in the third quarter, Leath got into the act with a 42-yard touchdown run, and Carlee Roland made the extra point, and LaGrange led 47-0.