There will be plenty for the LaGrange Grangers to work on following Friday’s tougher-than-anticipated 42-28 victory over Alexander, though.
The Grangers built a 42-7 lead in the second half, and they withstood a late Alexander charge to improve to 3-0 in Region 5-AAAA.
After the game, LaGrange head coach Donnie Branch said “we’ve got to go to work, because that wasn’t very good.”
Alexander came into the game without a win, and it had lost its two region games to Troup and Alexander by a combined score of 91-19.
For much of Friday’s game, it looked like another blowout loss for Alexander.
After Demoton Boyd’s 36-yard touchdown run, the Grangers had a 35-point lead in the third quarter, and the game appeared to be over.
Alexander had plenty of fight left in it, though.
A 39-yard touchdown run by Mikell Lands and an interception return for a score by Brandon Boss cut LaGrange’s lead to 42-21 through three quarters.
The Grangers then fumbled the ball away on two straight possessions to begin the fourth quarter, and a Lands 2-yard touchdown run after one of those turnovers made it a 42-28 game.
Finally, the Grangers were able to put together three first downs and end the suspense.
Before that late drive, LaGrange had turned the ball over on three straight possessions.
“You start turning the football over, that’s what you get,” Branch said.
Branch said he felt coming into the game that Alexander could do some things on offense, and that was the case.
Quarterback Brian Dansereau gave LaGrange fits, and Lands had a big game.
“I knew they could do some good things,” Branch said. “Offensively, we knew they were actually pretty good. They moved the ball every game.”
For LaGrange, before the late turnover problems, things went pretty much according to plan on the offensive end.
After punting on their opening possession, the Grangers went 57 yards in seven plays on their second drive to take a 7-0 lead.
Quarterback Zach Giddens capped the drive with an 11-yard scoring run, and Benny Gray had a 20-yard run to get things going.
After an Alexander punt, the Grangers went back to work and went 66 yards in five plays to pad their lead.
This time, it was wide receiver Dee Smith doing the honors.
Giddens floated the ball downfield, and Smith leaped up and came down with the ball over his defender around the 20-yard line, and he went the rest of the way for the 40-yard touchdown.
The Grangers threatened again early in the second quarter when Qua Baldwin returned an interception keep into Alexander territory, but a lost fumble ended that drive.
After an Alexander fumble, the Grangers went back to work and drove the ball 76 yards in nine plays to push the lead to 21-0.
Demoton Boyd capped the drive with a 15-yard touchdown run with 3:14 left in the half.
The Grangers weren’t done.
After an Xavier Hatten interception, the Grangers only needed to go eight yards for the touchdown, and after the first-down play lost two yards, Giddens scored on a 10-yard touchdown run.
Taylor Stanford’s extra point, his fourth of six on the night, gave the Grangers a 28-0 lead at the half.
The Grangers had the ball six times in the first half, and they scored four touchdowns, and they didn’t give up any points themselves.
“We did a lot of good things in the first half,” Branch said.
At the start of the second half, though, the Cougars went 75 yards for their first touchdown, with Danserau’s 6-yard keeper capping the drive.
Any lingering suspense seemed to leave the stadium when LaGrange scored touchdowns on its next two possessions, though.
After Smith’s long kickoff return to the Alexander 24, Smith found Gray for a 20-yard touchdown on a screen pass, and it was 35-7.
Alexander went three-and-out on its ensuing possession when Joe Sanders came up with a sack on third down, and the Grangers only needed a few plays to go 74 yards after the punt.
Giddens got things going with a 20-yard completion to tight end Clete Miller, and Boyd capped the quick drive with his second touchdown run, this one covering 36 yards.
With 7:53 left in the third quarter, LaGrange led 42-7, and it appeared to be a matter of time before Branch emptied the bench to get the reserves a chance to play.
It didn’t happen.
The Cougars came down the field and scored on a 39-yard touchdown run by Lands to make it 42-14.
When LaGrange got the ball back, after two incompletions, Giddens’ third-down pass was picked off and returned for a touchdown, and the Alexander folks were celebrating after watching their team get within 21.
On their next two possessions, the Grangers ran three plays, and two of them resulted in lost fumbles.
After the second fumble, the Cougars went 50 yards in three plays, and it was a 14-point game with 6:52 to play.
The Grangers ran 12 plays on their ensuing drive, and even though the possession ended with a failed conversion on fourth down, there was only 1:26 left to pay.
The Cougars got as far as the LaGrange 26-yard line before time ran out.
“We won,” Branch said. “We’ll take it and move on.”