By Kevin Eckleberry Sports Editor
November 4, 2013
The LaGrange Grangers went to the locker room feeling just fine about the state of things.
They were standing toe-to-toe with the Troup Tigers Friday night, and they held an 8-6 lead at the half.
The Grangers were also armed with the knowledge that they would get the ball first in the second half, so they would have the chance to add to their lead.
The LaGrange offense never got that chance, though.
In what was unquestionably the biggest play of the game, LaGrange was unable to corral the second-half kickoff, and a Troup player recovered the ball.
A few plays later, the Tigers were in the end zone, and they had a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
Troup dominated the second half, and it went on to claim a 27-8 victory.
It all started with one well-placed kick off the foot of Troup’s sophomore kicker, Michael Young.
Young dropped the ball in a perfect spot, and two LaGrange players ended up staring at the ball.
“He kicked a perfect ball between two guys,” LaGrange head coach Donnie Branch said. “They were trying to communicate, they couldn’t hear. It falls, and it gets screwed up.”
Troup head coach Lynn Kendall said it’s a play the team works on.
“It was a nice quality sky kick, and we had guys hustling down to make a play on the ball,” Kendall said. “It was a big momentum swing.”
The Tigers had the ball at the 26-yard line, and five plays later, quarterback Will Smith scored on a 1-yard run.
Young’s extra point gave the Tigers a 13-8 lead, and they added two more fourth-quarter touchdowns on runs by Dre Towns and Daryl Dunlap to win going away.
Young made all three of his extra-point attempts in the second half.
REPRESENTING NUMBER 13: From the start of the season, the LaGrange Grangers have done something special to honor Chris Mabe, a member of the football team who was killed in a car accident last spring.
Each week, one player has been chosen to wear Mabe’s number 13 jersey.
During Friday’s game against Troup, wide receiver Hayden Olive wore the number 13.
Olive, who usually wears the number 10 jersey, also wore the number 13 during a preseason game against Valley.
Against Troup, Olive made a huge impact.
In the first quarter, Olive had a 59-yard catch from Wynton Heard on a drive that ended with an unsuccessful attempt on a fake field goal.
On the Grangers’ very next possession, Olive had a 10-yard touchdown catch that gave his team an 8-6 lead.
Olive added a 30-yard catch in the second quarter, although the Grangers ended up having to punt after getting to the Troup 37-yard line.
On LaGrange’s final possession of the first half, which resulted in a missed field goal, Olive had a 5-yard catch.
In the first half, Olive had four catches for 104 yards.
SPECIAL-TEAMS SUCCESS: The Callaway Cavaliers haven’t had many issues this season, but they have struggled at times with giving teams good field position on kickoffs.
It looks like the Cavaliers have got that possible area of concern taken care of, though.
In Friday’s 48-7 victory over Douglass, the Cavaliers got plenty of work in on their kickoffs, and they did a great job of pinning the Astros back.
Hunter Milliman put the kicks deep, and the coverage team got down and made the plays.
“Our kickoff team was able to pin Douglass inside the 20 most of the night when we kicked off,” Callaway head coach Pete Wiggins said.
Wiggins added that “the kickoff team worked really hard to win the field-position battle, and the guys were really hustling down there.”
Another problem area at times for the Cavaliers this season has been extra points, but it looks that has also been solved.
Chase Freeman has settled in nicely as the Cavaliers’ extra-point specialist, and he has been nearly perfect of late.
Against Douglass, Callaway only missed one of its seven extra-point attempts.
Also in the special-teams area, Callaway’s Tez Parks blocked a punt in the first quarter Friday night that led to a touchdown.
TAKING OVER: LaGrange had its share of offensive success in the first half Friday night.
Quarterback Wynton Heard threw for more than 100 yards, and the Grangers scored one touchdown, made it to the Troup 3-yard line on another possession, and missed a field on another possession.
In the second half, though, LaGrange’s offense had no answer for the Troup defense.
The Grangers went three-and-out on their first four possessions of the second half, and it wasn’t until they were behind 27-8 that they managed a first down.
“We went into the halftime and they were up, and we had to prove something,” said Troup defensive lineman Dikembe Billingslea, who had a sack in the second half. “We did pretty good. I can’t be mad with my defense. You have to be mean, play Troup defense.”
LaGrange finished with barely 150 yards of offense, and it was unable to get anything done on the ground.
Troup’s offense, meanwhile, finished with more than 300 yards, and a lot of the damage was done late.
On back-to-back possessions in the fourth quarter, the Tigers had touchdown drives of 58 and 61 yards, and running backs Daryl Dunlap and Dre Towns accounted for almost all of those yards.
LaGrange head coach Donnie Branch felt his offense’s inability to move the ball had a lot to do with Troup’s offensive success in the fourth quarter.
“I thought defensively we could play with them,” Branch said. “But you need to be protected. We’re not good enough on defense to play that much. Some years, it didn’t matter. Right now, we’re at a point where we need to protect them.”
BUSINESS AS USUAL: In two years of playing Region 4-AAA opponents, the Callaway Cavaliers have had two games that were still in doubt in the fourth quarter.
One of those games was last year, with Callaway hanging on late to win at Central-Carroll 14-10.
The other competitive game was just a little more than a week ago against B.E.S.T. Academy.
Although the Cavaliers were in control the whole way, they couldn’t put away a determined B.E.S.T. team and eventually won 28-18.
Those two games aren’t the norm.
The Cavaliers’ other region games have been no-doubters, and most of the games have been decided by the half.
This year, outside of the win over B.E.S.T, Callaway hasn’t won a region game by less than 25 points.
The story was much the same a year ago.
Outside of the Central-Carroll game, Callaway won each region game by at least 20 points.
Overall the past two seasons, the Cavaliers are 13-0 against region competition, and they’ll try to make it 14-0 with a win at Rockmart on Friday.
Callaway has already clinched a second straight region championship, and it will have back-to-back 9-1 regular seasons with a win this week.