LaGrange readies for second straight Thursday night football game

Published 9:00 am Thursday, September 28, 2023

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LaGrange is gearing up for its second straight Thursday Night Football, a rarity for a professional team and even more of an oddity for high school football, but the Grangers will show up and play on any day of the week.

“I like these Thursday games because it gives you a long weekend to prepare for the next one,” LaGrange coach Matt Napier said. “We are coming off a big win, but we cannot be complacent.”

LaGrange will travel to Riverdale on Thursday for a key region matchup. Riverdale is 0-6 on the season and 0-3 in region play, but the Grangers are not overlooking this week’s opponent.

“You look back to last year and the ballgame we had between us was just a two-score game,” Napier said. “We have to be ready to play no matter who the opponent is.

“In this region you have to be ready to go every week and this week is no different.”

The Grangers lead the all-time series 7-5, winning three in a row and six of the last seven, but only one matchup came this century — last season’s 28-14 win for LaGrange.

After falling to region leader Starr’s Mill in their region opener 21-7, the Grangers rebounded in style, dominating Whitewater 35-0 last Thursday.
“Guys have come in prepared and focused and continue to do the right things,” Napier said. “They haven’t lost that edge, they still want to put in the work every week.”

The Grangers wore the Wildcats down with a steady running attack. Leading rusher Jonathan Keys is looking healthier than he has all season. He had his best game of the season against the Wildcats, turning 11 carries into 126 yards and a touchdown. 

“He’s explosive and a big-time playmaker,” Napier said. “He has been playing for us since he was young and you know what you’re getting with him. He is hard-nosed and really twitchy.” 

The entire rushing attack was potent, totaling 246 yards against the Wildcats.

“I think it’s important to win the battle of the trenches on both sides of the ball, and I feel like we did that last week against a good Whitewater team,” Napier said. 

The passing offense was equally as good with Malik Kemp throwing for two touchdowns — both to Parker Shattuck.

Shattuck was brilliant against Whitewater, totaling three tackles on defense, a 55-yard punt and catching four passes for 53 yards and two touchdowns — he was called just short of scoring his third touchdown late in the first half.

“Parker is a special player,” Napier said. “He is a big-time player and he always seems to make big plays in big moments. There is a reason so many colleges are calling to recruit him.”

Linebacker JT Burks was flying around making plays last week for the Grangers on defense and has proved to be a real leader on that side of the ball.

“He had probably four or five big WOW plays last week,” Napier said. “What goes under the radar though is his ability to get our defense set up, and he does so many things to make our defense click.”

Despite Burks being the proven leader of the defense, their highest impact player this season might just be Noah Outland who leads the team in tackles (35) and sacks (6) while also registering a forced fumble and a safety. The sophomore is enjoying a real breakout season.

LaGrange (3-2) (1-1) will take on the Raiders on Thursday with kickoff set for 7:00 p.m.