The Grangers (4-3 overall, 3-1 in Region 5-AAAA) mounted a furious comeback from 21 points down in the fourth quarter amidst a frightening event that took place early in the fourth quarter.
The game was marred by several injuries for LaGrange, the worst coming with 10:09 to play in the game when junior defensive lineman Dazmon Dunlap was trampled, and his throat was apparently stepped on by a Fayette County player.
Fayetteville paramedics and trainers knelt around Dunlap for about 15 minutes attempting to stabilize his condition on the field before transporting him to the hospital.
One of those trainers confirmed after the game his neck had been stepped on during the pileup and Dunlap was having breathing issues.
Dunlap’s condition improved by the time he was taken away, though, and he is doing well now.
The game was a brutal, punishing event that saw at least six Grangers go down with injuries.
The other huge blow for LaGrange came early when running back Benny Gray was sidelined for the rest of the night with a high ankle sprain.
Trainers applied ice to it as he sat in pain on the training table and then watched the second half on crutches.
Also, defensive end Chris Manning left the game in the second half with an injury and did not return.
Joe Sanders and C.J. Robinson were also briefly out of the game.
Sanders hobbled off the field in the second half and Robinson was helped off after coming out of a pileup near the end zone late in the game.
Injuries weren’t the only issue LaGrange dealt with during the game.
The Grangers made numerous mistakes, including several key penalties and a number of turnovers that negated efforts to move the ball, while Fayette County was able to capitalize early on LaGrange’s inability to get anything positive going.
After scoring a fourth-quarter touchdown by Fayette County, LaGrange was trailing 35-14 before charging back to tie it.
Early on, the Grangers were ineffective on offense and struggled to stop Fayette County’s punishing ground game, which produced nearly 300 yards in a blowout over Columbus the previous week.
“Things went bad for us tonight and we didn’t do a very good job in a lot of areas from coaching on down,” LaGrange head coach Donnie Branch said after the game. “We sputtered on offense in the first half and it really cost us and took us a while to get our feet wet on defense, then we started having guys dropping like flies, so it put us in a tough position. Dazmon (Dunlap) is a bigger deal. I’m glad he’s doing better and I’m praying for him and our football team.”
LaGrange took the opening kickoff and came up empty on its first series, as the Tiger defense forced the Grangers to punt after just three plays.
LaGrange’s fortunes quickly worsened after Fayette County hauled in the punt and returned it to the 25-yard line where the Tiger return man fumbled the ball in front of him.
A LaGrange player attempted to scoop up thte ball, but he couldn’t hang on to it and in the ensuing scrum Fayette County ended up with the ball on the Granger 6-yard line.
The Tigers were in the end zone with just 1:34 elapsed in the game and they led 7-0 after the extra point.
LaGrange was forced to punt after its second possession, and Fayette County scored another touchdown to go ahead 14-0 at the 6:43 mark of the first quarter.
The Grangers managed to move the ball sporadically in the first quarter and got their first pass completion of the game when quarterback Zach Giddens hooked up with receiver Clete Miller for a first down.
The Grangers then fumbled the ball away, though, as they came up empty.
Fayette County continued to control things with its running game.
The Tigers, who didn’t attempt their first pass play until the second quarter, relied heavily on dive plays and off-tackle runs that were effective for them all night in short-yardage situations.
Fayette County’s defense, meanwhile, was effective, especially up front, as evidenced by a play during LaGrange’s fourth possession in the game.
Giddens dropped back for a pass in the second quarter and back-pedaled, attempting to avoid a sack. Instead of running out of the pocket, Giddens heaved the ball to his right and was flagged for intentional grounding.
The penalty moved LaGrange back to its own 4-yard line.
On the next play, Giddens hit Josh Thompson for a 25-yard pass play and a first down, but the drive would stall on the 45-yard line and LaGrange punted the ball that ended up rolling all the way to the Fayette County 5-yard line.
After a Fayette County punt to the LaGrange 20-yard line, the half ended with the Grangers trailing 14-0.
The Grangers’ fortunes seemed to change with the third quarter.
Fayette County took the kickoff and drove to the LaGrange 38-yard line.
After playing a near flawless first half, the Tigers fumbled the ball.
LaGrange took over and on the second play of the drive, Giddens hit Dee Smith for a 40-yard touchdown pass to close the gap to14-7 after Taylor Stanford’s extra point.
LaGrange coaches decided it was time for some trickery and called for an onside kick was tried, but Fayette County managed to recover the ball.
Fayette County then scored its third touchdown of the game with 7:52 to go in the third quarter on a 38-yard run to go up 21-7.
On their next possession, the Grangers came right back and scored to get within seven.
Running back Demoton Boyd picked up 32 yards on a run, and LaGrange was knocking on the door again.
The drive culminated with a 14-yard pass from Giddens to Boyd, and after Stanford’s extra point kick it was 21-14.
After the kickoff, LaGrange managed to stop Fayette County’s drive and it looked like the Grangers were gaining momentum.
LaGrange forced a punt from midfield.
The only problem was Fayette County didn’t punt.
The ball was snapped to sophomore back Montrell Kelley, who rambled down the sideline virtually untouched for a touchdown, giving the Tigers a 28-14 lead with 1:12 in the third quarter.
On the Grangers’ next possession, Giddens threw an interception with 26 seconds left in the third quarter, giving Fayette County the ball to start the fourth quarter.
That drive, which was stalled because of the injury to Dunlap, ended with Fayette County scoring a touchdown with 8:38 remaining to make it a 35-14 game.
At that point, all the air seemed to slowly slip away from the LaGrange balloon, demoralized with a lot of long faces on the field and in the stands.
Even the LaGrange cheerleaders seemed to wilt with the misfortunes of another score and a classmate carted off the field to a waiting ambulance, his condition and future uncertain.
That’s when the Grangers proved it ain’t over until it’s over.
A quick drive downfield ended with Giddens hitting Boyd for a 9-yard touchdown pass with 6:38 to go that closed the gap to 35-21 after Stanford’s extra point kick.
LaGrange tried an onside kick that didn’t travel the necessary 10 yards, so Fayette County took over on the LaGrange 47-yard line.
With 6:38 left, Fayette County fumbled the ball and LaGrange recovered it on its own 38.
Giddens dropped back for a pass on the first play, but found nobody open, opting to scramble to pick up 17 yards on the run.
Giddens later hit Smith for the second touchdown pass between the pair, cutting the deficit to 35-28 after Stanford’s kick with 5:54 left.
Fayette County took the kickoff and marched to the LaGrange 31-yard line.
LaGrange stopped the Tigers on a fourth-and-two play, getting the ball back with 69 yards to go and 4:04 showing on the clock.
Giddens wasted no time as he tossed a short shovel pass to Miller, who rambled through the middle and down the left side for a 64-yard play.
Miller was shoved out of bounds at the 6-yard line.
Giddens and Smith again hooked up for their third touchdown pass of the game, and Stanford’s kick tied the game with 2:22 remaining.
Fayette County took the kickoff and never made a serious attempt at moving the ball down field quickly, and that possession ended with a fumble.
The Grangers had 19 seconds remaining, but rather than risk a turnover, the decision was made to let the clock run out, and it was on to overtime.
In overtime, each team gets the ball from its own 15-yard line, and the game continues until someone wins.
LaGrange got the ball first in overtime, and the possession ended with a missed field goal from 36 yards.
Now it was Fayette County’s turn, and the Tigers made the most of the situation.
After moving the ball inside the 10,the Tigers kicked a short field goal to end the game.
Despite all its mistakes and injuries, the Grangers climbed out of hole after hole and were in the game to the unfortunate bitter end.
“The effort was great,” Branch said. “The playing part wasn’t so great. We made a million mistakes. Defensively, they (Fayette County) hadn’t really stopped anybody, so it shocked me the first half when they stopped us. We had plenty of mental mistakes.
“But again, the effort was incredible. They never quit. We’re down 21 in the fourth quarter and wind up tying it. So I’m real proud of that, but we’ve got plenty of work to do.”
Things won’t get any easier for LaGrange as No. 1 ranked Sandy Creek is up next on the schedule for a 7:30 p.m. home game at Callaway Stadium on Friday.