Twice the Grangers had leads of 21 points in the first half, but the powerful Bulldogs used an unstoppable running game to charge back for a 49-42 victory.
The Grangers (2-1) have turned the page from that game and now turn their attention to the Shaw Raiders (2-1), who come to town Friday night for the Region 5-AAAA opener for both teams.
LaGrange head coach Donnie Branch said the team has been working hard to shore up some problem areas from last week’s game, most notably on the defensive side of the football.
“We didn’t play very well the other night,” Branch said. “But we’re a lot better than we played. We tackled very poorly. They had a really good back that helps you tackle poorly. But we spent a great deal of time (this week) improving our tackling. I thought the story of the game last week was poor tackling, turnovers, we had a couple of crucial (interceptions), and then poor kickoff coverage. Those three things ultimately got us beat.”
It’s not like the Grangers lost to a middle-of-the-road team.
Thomson is ranked second in Class AAA, and it has all the makings of a state-championship team.
Running back Chris Jordan had a 200-yard rushing night, and he like the rest of the Thomson offense only got stronger as the team went along.
Thomson’s defense gave up a ton of yards and points, but it did come up with three interceptions.
One of those interceptions was returned for a touchdown, and the other two led to touchdowns.
There were other breakdowns as well.
Thomson was able to convert a fake punt, even though the ball-carrier, Jordan, had no blockers on the play and was surrounded by LaGrange defenders.
Branch also lamented the team’s poor coverage on kickoffs.
On one of the kickoffs, Thomson returned it all the way to the LaGrange 12-yard line.
“When you lose, there are always a lot of reasons, I do understand that,” Branch said. “But there was definitely a lot of things in our control that we didn’t take care of.”
On the bright side, LaGrange’s offense had a breakthrough performance.
Quarterback Zach Giddens threw for close to 400 yards, and he threw the ball around to six different receivers, with four of them hauling in touchdown passes.
Senior Dee Smith continued his remarkable season with more than 100 receiving yards, and he scored his fifth touchdown.
Fellow wide receivers Dee Gates and Tavone Rivers also had touchdown catches, as did running back Benny Gray.
Also, tight end Clete Miller had six catches.
While Branch would have liked to have done a bit more with the running game, he liked what he saw out of the passing game.
“I was excited about the offense,” Branch said. “That was kind of my vision for what I wanted the spread to look like from the throwing standpoint because we have a lot of skill on the perimeter.”
In Shaw, LaGrange is taking on a team that also likes to put the ball in the air, which will be a change after Thomson’s run-oriented attack.
“It’s a completely different kind of offense,” Branch.
With quarterback Chandler Whittlesey back at the helm, the Raiders are capable of putting up big numbers.
A year ago, LaGrange did a pretty good job against Whittlesey, although he did lead his team down the field at the end of the game before the Raiders were denied at the goal line.
LaGrange won that game 9-6 last season.
“They do a lot of throwing,” Branch said. “They’re spreading the whole field with a lot of great athletes. They’re going to flip the ball around and you’re going to have to make plays in space. It’s not a power kind of attack at all. It’s finesse with skilled athletes. They have a lot of skill starting with the quarterback. He’s the main guy.”