Defense pitches shutout, big day from Barlow leads Grangers to region win

Published 11:20 pm Thursday, September 28, 2023

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The LaGrange football team went on the road on Thursday meaning business, pitching its second straight shutout by bludgeoning Riverdale 42-0.  

“I’m proud of our execution, we came out here and right away we got after it,” LaGrange coach Matt Napier said. “We did all the small things that we needed to do tonight, and I’m really proud of our guys for that.”

It was a complete team performance and the Grangers left little doubt, putting the game to bed early. 

The Grangers had no problems scoring as Gavin Barlow took the opening kickoff back for a touchdown. 

“I didn’t think it would get to me at first, but then it bounced to me, and I just picked it up and I knew I had to go,” Barlow said with a laugh after the game. “Once I got it, I saw my blockers open up a hole and got going with it.”

That was the start of a big night for the senior who slipped through a few tackles for what was around a 70-yard touchdown run to put the Grangers up 21-0 late in the first quarter.

“I saw the o-line get the job done for me,” Barlow said. “I went one way and then I saw a hole open up another way and had to cut back and eventually I found my way into the end zone.

”It was really nice to have that, it felt really good.”

LaGrange hit the Raiders in the mouth early and the home team did not know how to respond. After Barlow’s opening kick return, the Grangers doubled their lead with 7:12 left in the first quarter when Malik Kemp scored from one-yard out after he connected with Denorayon Reid on a long pass play to set the Grangers up to score.

Kemp got his second touchdown of the game when he connected on an eight-yard flip pass to Reid for a touchdown with the first play of the second quarter. It was a Kemp to Kemp connection that set it up after Malik hit his twin brother Malachi on a deep over the shoulder pass down the right sideline. 

The running game, which churned so well last week against Whitewater, was rolling once again on Thursday night.

“Even Gavin would tell you that it starts with the guys up front,” Napier said. “The offensive line has done a great job of establishing the line of scrimmage the past two games.”

The final two touchdowns of the game on a short touchdown run from Jonathan Keys and a 40-yard dash by Caydin Thomas for six. Both came in the second quarter as LaGrange was in complete command, 42-0, at halftime.

A running clock in the second half and some miscues by the reserves meant that LaGrange never added to its lead, but the Grangers were happy to spoil the home team’s senior night and catch an early bus back to LaGrange.

The offense has been humming for the Grangers, but pitching shutouts in two straight region games is quite the accomplishment for the defense.

“Yeah, it’s back-to-back now,” Napier said with a grin. “Those guys are getting after it and constantly putting us in position to win games.

“The whole defense is together. When young guys go in at the end of the game, you have the older guys cheering them on from the sidelines.”

LaGrange (4-2) is now 2-1 in region play and will get an extra day’s rest as the team will host North Clayton next Friday in another pivotal region clash.