LAGRANGE – They kept fighting.
By the time most of the starters had left Friday’s preseason game at Callaway Stadium, it was the visiting Heard County Braves owning a 20-0 lead over the LaGrange Grangers.
The Grangers were a long way from done, though.
LaGrange charged back and pulled within seven, and it got as close the Heard County 20-yard line in the closing moments before a fourth-down play failed to end the suspense.
Heard County, behind the play of junior quarterback Emory Jones, held on for a 20-13 victory.
Jones, a junior who has committed to Ohio State, threw a pair of long touchdown passes in the first half, one of 44 yards to Drew Hopkins, and another covering 62 yards to Austin Miller.
Trey Wiggins had two field goals, including a 25-yarder in the second half that gave the Braves a 20-0 lead with 6:18 remaining in the third quarter.
The Grangers responded with a 14-play, 70-yard drive that was capped by a 1-yard scoring run by Cornell Kendrick, and Myles Johnson added an 11-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter.
On its final possession, LaGrange got within 20 yards of the end zone before a potential game-tying drive stalled.
LaGrange head coach Dialleo Burks was pleased, and not all surprised, to see how well the backups performed in the second half.
“They do it every day in practice,” Burks said. “Those guys who we played in the third and fourth quarter are what we call the scout-team guys. But they’re not scout-team guys in my mind. They can come and perform like that.”
One of benefits of Friday’s preseason game was the opportunity for Burks to see his quarterbacks in action.
LaPerion Perry, LaGrange’s all-state quarterback, is unable to play right now while recovering from offseason surgery, leaving an opening at that position.
Four LaGrange quarterbacks got to see playing time during Friday’s game, and they all did some good things.
Senior Amad Ogletree got the start, and while he didn’t lead any scoring drives, he made a handful of big plays running the ball while completing a handful of passes.
Also getting significant playing time was sophomore Nathan Cronic, who entered the game late in the first half and continued to play in the second half.
In the fourth quarter, Cronic threw a strike to Jordan Ogletree for a 17-yard completion on a crossing pattern, although the play was wiped out because of a penalty.
Burks was impressed with what he saw from Cronic, and in particular he pointed to a third-down scramble where he took on a handful of defenders in an effort to keep a drive alive.
“Cronic has battled,” Burks said. “People look at his physical tools, and yes he may be limited in some areas, but the thing I love about him is his heart. He’s got a big heart. You could tell on his scramble. He doesn’t want to lose. And that’s what being a Granger is all about.”
Also getting some playing time was sophomore Jacoby Smith, who Burks said “came out and did some good things as well.”
When LaGrange scored both of its touchdowns, it was freshman Charles Crawford at quarterback.
“I was nervous at first,” Crawford said. “But then, I just came out and did what I needed to do. It’s football. You just play.”
In the third quarter, the Grangers chewed up six minutes on a 70-yard touchdown drive.
Crawford completed a pair of passes to Jamari Trash on that drive, and he also showed off his scrambling ability with a first-down run early in the drive.
Running back Daz Williams did a lot of the damage on the drive, and his 8-yard run set the Grangers up with first-and-goal inside the 10.
Kendrick did the rest.
The junior fullback had an 8-yard-run to get it close to the end zone, and he bulled his way across the goal line from one yard out to put the Grangers on the board.
Sophomore kicker Matt Rainey made the extra point, and Heard County’s lead was 20-7 with 46 seconds left in the third quarter.
The Grangers kept the momentum going when Ty Whitehead recovered a fumble at the Braves’ 32-yard line.
Two plays later, LaGrange was in the end zone again.
Johnson, a sophomore running back, had a 21-yard run on first down.
Johnson’s number was called again on the next play, and he broke a handful of tackles and scored on an 11-yard run, and after a missed extra point, Heard County’s lead was down to 20-13 with 10:13 to play in the game.
The Grangers kept coming.
Mondarius Beasley, a sophomore cornerback, picked off a pass and and returned the ball to the Heard County 24-yard line.
It looked like the Grangers were on their way when Cronic whipped the 17-yard completion to Jordan Ogletree, but a holding penalty negated that play, and the Braves eventually got the ball back after an unsuccessful fourth-down play.
LaGrange got one last chance after the defense made a stand.
The Grangers took over at midfield, and on a fourth-down play, Crawford came through with a clutch 17-yard run to the 34-yard line.
On the next play, Crawford’s 14-yard completion to Damien Palmer put the ball on the 20-yard line.
That’s as close as the Grangers came, though, with the Braves taking possession following four straight incomplete passes.
Heard County ran a kneel-down play, and that was that.
LaGrange will visit Newnan on Thursday for another preseason game before it opens the regular season on Aug. 19 against Callaway.
“Offensively, we’ve still got some kinks to work out. It takes longer for the offense to come together,” Burks said. “Defensively, we just have to wrap up and tackle. We were in position to makes plays, we just have to tackle. That’s an easy fix. It’s hard to fix when you’re not in position.”
Reach Kevin Eckleberry at (706) 884-7311 or on Twitter @lagrangesports
Kevin Eckleberry | Daily News