LAGRANGE – The LaGrange Grangers held a 17-0 halftime lead on homecoming night, but it was the Cedartown Bulldogs dominating the second half to capture a 27-17 victory in the Region 5-AAAA showdown.
LaGrange hurt itself with three consecutive turnovers in the third quarter, all of which led to Cedartown touchdowns.
LaGrange (2-4 overall) fell to 1-1 in the region, and it faces a big-time challenge next week when it visits top-ranked and defending state champion Cartersville.
LaGrange head coach Dialleo Burks said the turnovers in the third quarter were too much to overcome.
“Once we overcome that, we’re going to be a really good football team. I really believe that. It’s not over,” Burks said. “But we can’t have turnovers, we can’t make mistakes. It was almost like we opened up the gate for them.”
Even though his team had a seemingly comfortable lead, Burks knew Cedartown wouldn’t go away.
“Like I said before in pre-game, they’re going to fight until the end,” Burks said. “That’s what they did. I think in spurts we got very cocky. And we thought it was over.”
In the first half, LaGrange moved the ball well with LaPerion Perry making his season debut.
Perry, the Grangers’ senior quarterback, missed the first five games while recovering from offseason hip surgery.
Perry and Cornell Kendrick each had touchdown runs in the first half, and LaGrange also scored on a safety.
Perry didn’t play in the third quarter, and LaGrange’s offense struggled.
LaGrange’s first three possessions of the second half ended with two lost fumbles and an interception, and Cedartown took full advantage of those breaks, scoring three touchdowns in a span of a little more than five minutes.
Perry did end up coming back into the game late and he was at quarterback for the final two possessions, but Cedartown’s lead was 10 by that point.
“We can’t rely on one guy to win a ballgame for us,” Burks said. “It’s a team effort. Coaching as well. It’s all of us. We’ll go back to the drawing board, and see what we did wrong, and we’ll correct it.”
Perry made an immediate impact.
On the first play from scrimmage, Perry had a 26-yard run, and that was the start of an eight-play, 91-yard scoring drive.
After completing a 26-yard pass to Bo Russell, Perry’s 10-yard keeper and Austin Stamper’s extra point put LaGrange on top 7-0 with 8:43 left in the opening quarter.
Late in the first quarter, Cedartown’s punter had to go high to catch the ball, and he was tackled in the end zone, and LaGrange led 9-0.
The Grangers added to their lead in the second quarter when they drove 52 yards in 11 plays.
Perry had a 19-yard run on that drive, and Kendrick finished things off with a 1-yard touchdown run.
Perry then completed a pass to Jamari Thrash for the two-point conversion, and with 4:38 left in the second quarter, LaGrange led 17-0.
LaGrange’s defense made a stop to start the second half, and the offense took over at its own 25-yard line.
Jakoby Smith completed a 13-yard pass to Thrash for a first down, but two plays later, Cedartown recovered a fumble.
Two plays later, Kobe Pryor took off on a 45-yard touchdown run, and LaGrange’s lead was down to 17-7 with 7:15 left in the third quarter.
On the Grangers’ ensuing possession, they fumbled again, and the Bulldogs took over at the 34-yard line.
That led to a 20-yard scoring pass from Trevon Wofford to Quan Neal, and it was a 17-13 game after the missed extra-point attempt.
Moments later, Neal come up with an interception, and Cedartown had the ball deep in LaGrange territory.
On the next play, Wofford’s 16-yard touchdown pass to Dalton Bowman gave the Bulldogs their first lead of the game.
Tony Mathis ran the ball in for the two-point conversion, and with 2:23 to play in the third quarter, Cedartown led 21-17.
When the Grangers got the ball back, they drove from their own 28 to the Bulldogs’ 17-yard line, and they got 30 of those yards on a completion from Smith to Russell.
The Grangers were stopped on a fourth-down play, though, and the Bulldogs then drove 86 yards for a touchdown.
Wofford’s 5-yard keeper gave the Bulldogs a 27-17 lead with 5:17 to play, and that’s the way it ended.
OF NOTE: For more on Friday’s game, see Monday’s sports section. And for more photos, check out facebook.com/LDNsports.
Reach Kevin Eckleberry at (706) 884-7311 or on Twitter @lagrangesports