LaGrange trounces region leader Trinity Christian on senior night, clinches playoff berth

Published 11:23 pm Friday, October 20, 2023

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LaGrange came into its game Friday with region leader Trinity Christian meaning business. The Grangers dispatched the Lions 42-14 to force a four-way tie atop Region 4-4A and clinch a playoff berth for the fourth season in a row — all under head coach Matt Napier.

“This senior class has now made the playoffs all four years after a 10-year stretch before that where the team did not make the playoffs,” Napier said. “That is a special deal for these guys to take the program where we are now, and we are still climbing and getting better everyday, but these seniors are a huge part of that foundation.”

The Grangers came out swinging. After three and outs from both offenses, the Grangers’ offense found its groove.

LaGrange drove down the field on its second drive of the game, including a 4th and 20 conversion from Malik Kemp to Tayshon Lemon.

LaGrange eventually punched the ball in on a 4-yard run from Kemp.

Kemp was superb in the game, rushing for two touchdowns and throwing for another two.

“I just want to keep getting better week by week, and I feel like I did that this week,” Kemp said. “There is still room for improvement, but I’m happy with how I played tonight.” 

After Kemp’s short touchdown run, Harris Grace jumped on a fumble on the ensuing kickoff. The first offensive play on the following possession was a 16-yard touchdown run by Gryson Cockrell putting the Grangers up 14-0 with 4:48 left in the first quarter, stunning the Lions.

“We really executed in all three phases of the game,” Napier said. “The kids wanted it tonight, and that sequence of events shows you that.”

LaGrange’s offense continued to roll as Kemp slung the ball around all over the field, connecting regularly on deep passes with Denorayon Reid and Steven Hill.

Kemp hit Hill on a beautiful 45-yard touchdown, but it was called back for a penalty on the offense.

What did the dynamic duo do? Only connect on a 33-yard touchdown later in the drive.

“He really is a great receiver and always finds a way to get open,” Kemp said. “He goes out there and always finds a way to make plays.”

A missed extra point meant the Grangers had a 20-0 lead with 11:52 in the first half.

LaGrange could not add to its lead in the first half, but the defense was in complete control, not allowing the Lions inside their territory until 10:09 left in the first half as the Lions converted a third and long courtesy of a roughing the passer penalty.

The Lions went nowhere and the Granger defense continued to hold them all game.

“We have some special players and our defensive coordinator Burton Thomas put together a good game plan and the kids went out there and executed it,” Napier said. 

The Granger defense got the home team off to a hot start in the second half when Carter Lay intercepted the first play from scrimmage of the half.

LaGrange quickly turned that into points when Kemp tiptoed into the end zone and then connected with Hill on a two-point conversion to put the home team up 28-0.

The Lions eventually got on the board with a 40-yard touchdown pass with 3:19 left in the third quarter to trim the LaGrange lead to 28-7.

The Grangers had the answer in the form of Gavin Barlow. The senior running back showed off his blazing speed, taking the ball 70+ yards to the house on a run early in the fourth quarter.

That was not the end for the Granger offense as Kemp found Caydin Thomas on a beautifully executed wheel route out of the backfield for a 26-yard touchdown.

“You keep seeing Kemp progress as the year goes along,” Napier said. “As coaches, we can put him in better positions at times, and we did that tonight.”

The defense was not done either with Kayden Sutton getting in on the fun with an interception late in the game.

The Lions added another garbage time touchdown with under a minute to go in the game that did nothing but make the score slightly more flattering for the road team.

LaGrange (6-2) (4-1) is gearing up for its home stretch of the season. The Grangers will have what appears to be a winnable game next week against a 1-7 Fayette County on the road before taking on Troup at Callaway Stadium in the regular season finale on Nov. 3 with major playoff implications on the line.

“We have to take it one week at a time,” Napier said. “We are proud of the win tonight, but we will have to come in and refocus heading into next week’s game.”