Defense pitches a shutout, Grangers cruise to first region win of the season

Published 10:40 pm Thursday, September 21, 2023

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The LaGrange football team was itching for a rebound on Thursday night and boy did the Grangers deliver in front of the home crowd, dominating Whitewater 35-0 for their first region win of the season.

“We needed that,” a relieved Head Coach Matt Napier said after the game. “Credit to these young men who came back after getting knocked down last week.
“They responded in practice and preparation and it showed out there tonight.”

After falling to last week against Starr’s Mill on the road in their region opener, the Grangers needed a leader to step up and on Thursday night it was senior Parker Shattuck who delivered an impressive performance.

“The young man has been making plays his entire career for us, and it is going to be weird next year when we don’t have him,” Napier said. “Big time players make big time plays in big time games.

“It shows you why he has got so much attention in the recruiting circuit and is committed to South Alabama.”

Shattuck scored the first two touchdowns for the Grangers — the first on a beautifully executed jump pass from quarterback Malik Kemp on fourth and goal to break the deadlock late in the first quarter, and the second with 5:04 left in the half when he jumped over a defender to put LaGrange up two scores.

“If you are going to leave me that open, you have to throw me the ball,” Shattuck said with a smile and a laugh. “Those were my first touchdowns since I was a freshman.”

Shattuck made a massive impact on defense, including making multiple tackles and disrupting the quarterback, but offense and defense were the only phases of the game Shattuck made an impact in.

When the Granger offense was stalling a bit in the first quarter, Shattuck uncorked a punt of over 55 yards to help flip the field position.

One of the keys for LaGrange was how they dominated in all three phases of the game.

The defense, which has been remarkable all season, put together their strongest performance so far this season, pitching a shutout.

“Our defense has played that way the entire season,” Napier said. “Even though they have let up some points this season, most of the time it is not their fault.”

The LaGrange defense did not allow a first down until over 10 minutes had come off the clock. The defense controlled the game from the opening whistle to the final whistle.

With LaGrange leading 21-0 early in the third quarter, the team was inside the red zone when a fumble gave the ball to the Wildcats. The defense responded with their biggest play of the game when Gryson Cockrell stepped in front of a Wildcat receiver and snatched an interception out of the air.

LaGrange marched down the field and killed the game off with a touchdown run by Jonathan Keys. His fellow running back Caydin Thomas got in on the act and scored a touchdown as well with 44 seconds left in the third quarter.

The Grangers were able to salt the game away in the fourth quarter as a running clock was used for the final 12 minutes of action.

LaGrange got a bounce-back performance from Kemp, who was dialed in, especially in the first half where he threw for two touchdowns and ran for another.

“Our running game was able to open up the passing game, and Parker was getting open,” Kemp said. “We kept finishing drives and putting points on the board. 

“I feel like that was our biggest thing we struggled with so far this season. We were getting in the red zone but not scoring points.”

Kemp showed great poise to lead a scoring drive with 90 seconds to go as he marched the team down the field and ended it with a quarterback sneak as the halftime buzzer sounded.

“We get the ball and drive 80 to 90 yards with roughly 90 seconds left,” Napier said. “We had guys that got out of bounds when they needed to, and Malik was able to execute the offense the right way there.”

LaGrange (3-2) is now 1-1 in region play and on good footing as the team heads into the meat of their season. The Grangers will be back on the gridiron next Thursday when they travel to take on region opponent Riverdale.