When you’re a defense putting together a game plan to face the LaGrange Grangers, it’s an unenviable task.
If defenses try to slow down the passing game, then LaGrange’s gifted running backs have the ability to make huge plays.
If defenses decide to stack the box in an effort to slow the running game, then quarterback Zach Giddens can put up huge numbers in the air.
And if a defense puts a lot of concentration on standout senior wide receiver Dee Smith, then LaGrange’s other pass-catchers have the skill to make big plays in the passing game.
So far, defenses have not been able to get a handle on LaGrange’s offense.
With Giddens leading the high-octane attack, the Grangers have scored at least 30 points in four of their five games, and they had a season-high 42 points in a loss to Thomson, which was ranked second in Class AAA at the time.
The Grangers have done it with a potent passing attack with a number of different players involved, and they’ve also run the ball well with a trio of backs.
In the middle of it all is an offensive line that has more than been up to the challenge.
“We just attack what they give us,” Giddens said. “We don’t try to let the defense dictate what we’re running. We want to dictate what they run.”
The Grangers often go to a no-huddle attack, and the idea is to not give a defense a chance to breathe.
“We just try to go fast so we can wear them out,” Giddens said.
The Grangers run everything out of the spread attack they began using last season when Donnie Branch became the head coach and David Pleasants became the offensive coordinator.
The Grangers showed signs of what they could be a year ago, but the offense has been much more potent this season.
Branch said it comes down to having more options on offense.
A year ago, the passing game often began and usually ended with Smith, who had an amazing junior season.
This year, while Smith continues to put up huge numbers, fellow receivers Dee Gates, Tavone Rivers and Corey Perkins have also been a big part of the offense, as has tight end Clete Miller.
On the ground, Benny Gray is having a terrific junior season, and Demoton Boyd and Mon Denson have also done big things in the running game.
Gray had a 189-yard game against Shaw, and he ran for 158 yards against Harris County.
So when Pleasants draws up a play, he has a lot of different players he can look to.
“The more options we have, the better for us,” Branch said. “It’s really helpful when somebody goes in and says, we’re going to take Dee Smith away, and we have other guys (who can step up). And I think we’ve proven that we do. Last year, that wasn’t the case.”
There is no doubt that Smith is the number one option.
After catching more than 50 balls last season, Smith has just about reached that total this year through five games.
He had nine catches for 138 yards against Thomson, he caught seven balls for 186 yards against Harris County, and he snared nine catches for 126 yards and two touchdowns against Newnan.
Smith is leading the team with eight touchdowns.
There have been plenty of receptions to go around to the other pass-catchers, though.
“Dee’s our go-to guy. He’s one of the top receivers in the state,” Branch said. “But it’s nice when Tavone Rivers can have a big game. Dee Gates can have a big game, Corey Perkins can have a big game, and Clete Miller. We have a bunch of guys we can run in there and make a play.”
Giddens, who saw considerable playing last season and has become the full-time starter this year, said he enjoys knowing he doesn’t have to zero in one guy when he drops back.
“It’s nice not having to go out there and pick out one receiver,” Giddens said. “All I have to do is make my read. I’ve got guys that are all over the field.”
Giddens got plenty of hands-on experience last season when he saw ample time under center, and as soon as the 2011 season ended, it was obvious Giddens was going to be the quarterback this year.
Giddens didn’t sit idly by waiting on a new season to arrive.
While focusing on his own conditioning, Giddens also spent a lot of time with his receivers in the offseason.
“In the summer, he’d grab four guys and say let’s go throw the football,” Branch said. “He does it year-round without a coach there, without anybody there. He does and picks them up and takes them home. He’s figured it out. He’s got that rapport with them.”
Branch also said Giddens has embraced his role as a leader on the team, something he saw during practice on Wednesday.
“Today, I noticed in the huddle, we were switching personnel groups, and they ran in there,” Branch said. “He was trying to call a play, and he went shut up! And then he started calling a play. They listened to him. He’s running the show.”
Giddens said he is “so much more confident this year” with the experience he’s gained.
“Last year was my first year playing varsity,” Giddens said. “Now, coming up this year, the game has really slowed for me. It was really fast last year, but it has really slowed down for me.”
Giddens also said that Pleasants does a great job of putting an understandable offensive game plan into action.
“Coach Pleasants, he’s really simplified a complicated offense,” Giddens said. “He’s a great coach. He comes up with great game plans and really makes it easy on us.”
The bottomline, Giddens said, is that if everyone of the offensive players does his job, then success will come.
“All of us have to come together,” Giddens said. “If 11 players do what they’re supposed to do, we’re going to score. If you have one guy that messes up, it can blow up the whole play.”
Overall, Branch said the offense is “just making huge strides, and I’m really proud of the offensive staff, and our offensive players. We’re night and day from where we were last year, and where we were preseason or the spring. We’re really growing, and we’re finding different guys.”