LaGrange prepares to host Carver on Thursday

Published 8:30 am Thursday, August 17, 2023

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LaGrange is ready to strap up its pads and get back under the lights at Callaway Stadium. The Grangers will not have to wait long with no. 3 ranked AAA team, Carver (Atlanta), coming to town on Thursday.

“They have a lot of good football players and are an established program,” LaGrange coach Matt Napier said. “We have a short week with a Thursday game, so it gives us a little bit more of a sense of urgency when it comes to a preparation standpoint.”

After kicking off the 2022 season on the road, LaGrange will get a chance to host its 2023 season opener. Napier expects that to be to their advantage as he expects a packed and loud Callaway Stadium on Thursday.

“I expect a big home crowd and the Granger faithful to come out in full force,” Napier said. “I expect our young men to play with great focus, great intensity and great execution.”

The Grangers will need the entirety of its home support as they have their work cut out for them against Carver. The Panther made it all the way to the AAA semifinals a season ago before falling to eventual champions Sandy Creek. Expect the Panthers to be in the hunt again as they rank no. 3 in AAA in the AJC pre-season poll. 

LaGrange will be looking to bounce back after a disappointing loss to Columbia in last Friday’s scrimmage against Columbia. The Grangers fell 26-21 in a game that featured multiple momentum swings. Both teams used a plethora of players, but that will not be the case this Thursday night when the starters will be set to play the entire game. 

Last week’s performance came with good and bad moments as the teams ironed out some of the kinks before the season starts.

“Our guys got to see what it is like when everything doesn’t go perfectly,” Napier said. “We faced some adversity in that game and were able to bounce back in the game.

“Turnovers and penalties are not what good football teams do and we for sure had way too many of both last Friday.”

One of the players that impressed in the Grangers scrimmage was junior running back Jonathan Keys. He started last season as no. 3 on the running back depth chart, but is in line to be the starter this season. Keys barreled into the endzone for two touchdowns in the scrimmage among other important plays for the Grangers.

“He has taken the keys and become the guy this year,” Napier said. “I thought he did a really good job. He took care of the ball and ran really physical.”

Senior starting quarterback Malik Kemp will see his LaGrange debut along with twin brother Malachi as they transferred in from Carrollton. 

LaGrange will see some turnover at quite a few positions including wide receiver with last year’s two leading receivers — Jaylon Jordan and Magic Johnson — but a banged up wide receiving core came up with some big plays last Friday.

“Tayshon Lemon and Steven Hill did not get to play last week and both those guys are very talented receivers,” Napier said. “What them missing the game did was allow the other guys to play more plays.

“Denoryan Reid and Jardon Stringer really showed some flashes of being able to make plays.”

Senior offensive lineman KT Owens and defensive lineman Kaden Kinney, also a senior, were the players of the game last Friday in the scrimmage and both will need to have big games on Thursday if the Grangers are to come out victorious.

“KT is a veteran leader for us,” Napier said. “He really handled calling out plays and graded out really high for the game.

“Kaden was a bit of a surprise because it was the first game that he played in as a starter.” 

Game time is set for 7 p.m. at Callaway Stadium.