LaGrange tops Troup, books home playoff game

Published 11:58 pm Friday, November 3, 2023

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Make it two in a row.

LaGrange topped rivals Troup for the second consecutive year, coming out on top 23-7 Friday.

“LaGrange is a special place with special people and to see the kids’ reaction when they succeed like this makes you so proud as a coach,” LaGrange coach Matt Napier said. “This team has a bond that makes each other want to make sacrifices for the player next to you.”

The Grangers have locked in a no. 2 seed and a home playoff game in the first round for the second consecutive season under Napier.

“Rivalry games have ups and downs, and we were able to ride those tonight,” Napier said. 

The game was full of dramatics, including some commotion outside the stadium with 6:52 left in the game that delayed the game over 30 minutes.

LaGrange was leading 9-7 at the time.

“We felt good coming out of the second break we had,” Troup coach Tanner Glisson said. “We came out flat and missed a tackle and that flipped the game right there.”

The Grangers quickly took a 16-7 lead back from the break when Malik Kemp connected with Steven Hill for their second touchdown of the game.

“I was just thinking, I got put on the jets and score,” Hill said about his yards after catch.

It looked like Troup might have a chance to get back into the ball game late, but a long interception return by Parker Shattuck iced the game.

“I saw the ball up in the air and knew I had to make a play,” Shattuck said. “This atmosphere man, this game is special.”

It was the second straight Troup game that Shattuck had come away with a crucial interception late. 

“Yeah, he loves this game,” Napier said with a laugh. “Big-time players make big-time plays in big games, and he continues to do that. He has such a high football IQ.”

The entire LaGrange defense dominated the contest. Gryson Cockrell had a big interception in the second quarter and JJ Johnson got one in the waning moments to give LaGrange the ball back, ready for the victory formation.

“The first drive they scored, and then they did not score from there, and we barely gave them any chances at all,” Napier said. “Proud of the way they stepped up tonight. Playing defense is so much about effort and physicality, and our guys have that.”

For Troup, it was a game of missed chances. After Mason Calhoun connected on a field goal to put LaGrange back out in front 9-7 in the second quarter, the Tigers offense stalled out every possession, including a missed 33-yard field goal as time expired in the first half that would have given the team the lead at the break.

The Tiger offense kept getting in their own way with four turnovers.

“We turned the ball over a lot at practice this week, and it carried it over to tonight,” Glisson said. “We have to take care of the football if we want to win games like this.”

The early signs from the game indicated it might be a shootout, but it was anything but. LaGrange marched the opening possession right down the field and scored when Kemp hit Hill for their first of two touchdown connections.

“He is a special player that makes special plays,” Napier said. “He made contested catches, he made people miss, and made plays where he was beating people over the top.”

Troup answered right back, marching down the field and capping it off with a 4-yard touchdown run from Noah Dixon. The extra point gave Troup a 7-6 lead — their only lead. 

Despite the loss, Dixon had a big game including an important interception inside Troup’s 10-yard line to halt a promising Granger drive late in the second quarter.

It was a true defensive slugfest until LaGrange broke through late in the fourth quarter.

Troup finished the regular season 8-2 and will head to the playoffs as no.3 seed. The Tigers will be on the road to Cairo next Saturday in the opening round of the AAAA state playoffs.

“We have to go on the road, which is a big deal, and it will be a hostile environment,” Glisson said. “After the game, we had to see how hungry they were and where the hearts were as we get ready for next week’s game.”

Jonathan Keys put the final nail in Troup’s coffin when he scored the final touchdown of the game with 2:59 left on the clock. 

LaGrange (8-2) will host a playoff game in the opening round next Thursday or Saturday against Westover.

The Grangers beat Troup in an emotionally charged season finale last year and then came out flat in their playoff opener against Burke County, taking a tough loss at home. Napier aims to make sure that does not happen again this season. 

“This is LaGrange High, we are chasing a championship,” Glisson said. “We are going to put this win behind us and get ready for the playoffs. We are going to be focused going into next week’s game. We owe it to this group of seniors.”

This will be the final region game between the two football programs until at least 2027 as LaGrange will drop down to AAA next year while Troup will stay in AAAA.