Grangers take aim at Raiders

By Kevin Eckleberry Sports Editor

September 26, 2013

It’s been a frustrating first month of the season for the LaGrange Grangers, but they’ll have a chance to get things headed in the right direction today.

The Grangers, after dropping all three of their non-region games, will begin their Region 5-AAAA schedule today with a showdown against the rival Shaw Raiders at Kinnett Stadium.

While the Grangers are 0-3 after losses to Newnan, Harris County and Thomson, Shaw is off to a 2-1 start, although it’s schedule is considerably softer than LaGrange’s

LaGrange has had to deal with all sorts of adversity so far, including injuries, costly mistakes, second-half collapses, and even an onfield brawl during last week’s game against Thomson that resulted in the ejection of a handful of players.

LaGrange head coach Donnie Branch said the team has played the kind of competition that reveals any shortcomings a team has, and that it’s no coincidence that his team is winless.

“We’re really disappointed. We’re 0-3 in our (non-region schedule),” Branch said. “But at the same time, we believe we’re a good football team. We believe we could have played three teams that we could be 3-0 against. We chose to play some really good football teams, and when you do the things we’ve done against good football teams, when you have penalties and you turn the ball over, and you do some undisciplined things, you go 0-3.”

The Grangers opened the season with a 42-20 loss to Newnan, and they were unable to hold a 17-point fourth-quarter lead on the way to a 38-27 loss to Harris County.

After a week off, LaGrange returned to the field and lost to Thomson 31-28 after rallying from a 31-12 deficit in the third quarter.

In each game, Branch said the occasional mental mishap has proven costly.

“You wish you could say it’s play 12, 36 and 42 that are going to determine this game, and we really need to play those well,” Branch said. “But we don’t know which plays are going to be the ones. You have to approach it like every play might be the game-changer. That’s discipline.”

As for today’s game, it figures to be a major challenge.

Shaw was a playoff team a year ago, and it is off to a nice start this season.

Sophomore quarterback Tyron Huff has been terrific in his first season a starter, and the defense has done a nice job of forcing turnovers.

Branch is hopeful the mistakes that have plagued the Grangers will be lessened tonight.

“You’re playing a good Shaw team at Kinnett,” Branch said. “It’s tough enough as it is without creating all those problems for yourself.”

LaGrange, meanwhile, will try to build on its second-half performance against Thomson.

After falling behind big, the Grangers dominated the action and came close to pulling off a major comeback with quarterback Wynton Heard at the helm.

Zach Giddens started at quarterback after missing the first two games while recovering from offseason injury, but he left after the first quarter of the Thomson game with an injury.

Heard, who was slated to be a wide receiver when Giddens played quarterback, then went back under center and played well.

Branch said he’s been pleased with how Heard has handled everything.

“There’s been a lot of maturity in Wynton,” Branch said. “I’m probably as proud of him as I am of anybody on the football team for the way he’s handled the whole deal.”