Friday night against the Thomson Bulldogs, the Grangers were unstoppable at times as they marched up and down the field against a terrific defense.
The Grangers amassed more than 400 yards and scored 42 points, albeit in a losing effort since the Bulldogs scored 49 points of their own.
Still, amidst the disappointment of losing a 49-42 heartbreaker, the offense looked as potent as it has at any point over the past two seasons.
Quarterback Zach Giddens threw for nearly 400 yards, and he got the ball to six different receivers, and four different players had touchdown catches.
The Grangers didn’t do a whole lot on the ground, which Branch would like to change, and there were also three interceptions, but it was nonetheless a breakthrough performance for a spread offense that was clicking.
“I was excited about the offense,” LaGrange head coach Donnie 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.”
That perimeter skill begins with senior Dee Smith, who is having a remarkable season.
After compiling nearly 200 receiving yards two weeks ago against Harris County, Smith had 138 yards on nine catches against Thomson, and many of those catches were made in traffic.
Smith had one 51-yard catch, and he also had a 24-yard touchdown reception, giving him five total touchdowns in three games, four through the air and one on the ground.
Fellow senior receiver Dee Gates had seven catches for 80 yards on Friday with a touchdown, and while receiver Tavone Rivers only had one reception, it covered 28 yards for a touchdown.
Tight end Clete Miller also got into the act with six catches for 52 yards, with five of his receptions coming in the first half.
Running back Benny Gray had one catch, and it was a big one.
In the first quarter, Gray caught a short pass and went 70 yards for a touchdown.
Running back Demoton Boyd also caught a pass for 18 yards.
Engineering the attack was Giddens, who saw considerable playing time a year ago and has now settled in as the starter.
Giddens made a lot of big-time throws, and he was helped by having receivers who seemed to come up with the catch anytime the ball was in their vicinity.
“I thought Zach made a couple of throws that weren’t so good, but he made a bunch of really good throws,” Branch said.
Branch added that “our receivers really caught the ball. It was Dee Smith, but he does it every week. It was Clete Miller, Dee Gates, Tavone Rivers (who) all caught the ball well.”
Branch did have two complaints.
One, there were the three interceptions, and they were all big.
The first one was returned for a touchdown, and the next two led to Thomson touchdowns.
Also, LaGrange didn’t do much in the running game with less than 60 yards on the ground.
Gray led the way with 33 yards on eight carries.
The Grangers twice had leads of 21 points in the game, and Branch felt it would have been nice to be able to run some clock with the running game.
“I want the run in there, and we couldn’t run the ball,” Branch said. “You run the ball, and the clock’s moving. We had trouble running it. They were big inside, and they were hard to run on. That’s the next step is being able to mix in more runs.”
RUNNING STRONG: While the Grangers are getting it done with the passing game, the Callaway Cavaliers are doing most of their damage on the ground.
The Cavaliers are getting contributions from all over the place in the ground game.
Quarterback Tez Parks is himself an outstanding runner, and running backs Wilson Lindsey, Eddie Culpepper and Devon Rosser have also run strong.
In last week’s 24-21victory over Harris County, Lindsey had two touchdown runs, Culpepper had one, and Parks’ scrambling ability played a big part in all of the scoring drives.
Callaway hasn’t done much in the passing game, but it has shown the ability to make big plays in the air with the wide-receiver duo of Terry Godwin and Pedy Leverette.
Against Harris County, Leverette came down with a long catch that eventually led to a score.
SETTLING IN: Since a season-opening 43-37 loss to Heard County, Callaway’s defense has improved dramatically.
The Cavaliers only gave up one fourth-quarter touchdown in a 28-7 victory over Troup, and they held Harris County scoreless for much of the second half in last week’s 24-21 victory.
Callaway head coach Pete Wiggins said Cortez Leonard, a free safety who transferred from Troup in the offseason, has been a big part of the reason for the defensive turnaround.
Leonard had a huge game against Harris County.
“Cortez Leonard had a big night,” Wiggins said. “He led us on defense.”
Overall, Wiggins said the defensive players “did a great job of running to the ball.”
In the second halves the past two weeks, Callaway has only given up 14 points, and both touchdowns came late with the Cavaliers holding a comfortable lead.
BACK TO WORK: After taking their only off week of the season, the Troup Tigers will look to get their first win of the season when they visit Alexander Friday night.
It will be the Region 5-AAAA opener for the Tigers, who are 0-3 but are coming off a fine performance in a 21-14 loss to Newnan.
Troup was in control for much of that game, but Newnan scored three touchdowns in about a four-minute stretch in the fourth quarter to rally from a 14-0 deficit.
Troup did a lot of good things in that game, moving the ball well with its power running game while mostly putting the clamps on Newnan’s high-powered offense.
Troup got touchdown runs from Daryl Dunlap and Lemonta Truitt against Newnan.
Newnan came into the game appearing to have a big edge with a 3-1 record, but as Troup head coach Lynn
Kendall said, there’s a reason why the games are actually played.
“This is a great example of, this is why you play the game,” Kendall said. “You can’t just go off who has what record and who is supposed to win. You still have to play the ballgame.”
Now, Troup is in essence starting over with the beginning of region play.
“We’re 0-0, and so are a lot of other people, too,” Troup head coach Lynn Kendall said.