LaGrange, Carver ready for showdown
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
It’s a first-place showdown at Callaway Stadium.
The surging LaGrange Grangers, who have won four consecutive games since a season-opening loss to Upson-Lee, will host the Carver Tigers on Friday in a matchup featuring two teams with perfect 3-0 Region 2-AAAA records.
LaGrange (4-1 overall) is in the midst of its longest winning streak since 2009, and it will look to keep it going against a formidable Carver squad.
“Our kids have a sense of belief that we can compete at a high level, and they’ve proven that,” said Matt Napier, LaGrange’s first-year head coach. “They’ve proven that they’ve got that never-give-up attitude, that never-quit mentality, so that’s good to see, and we’ll definitely be tested by a great opponent. They’ll got a lot of really good players, and we’ll have to dig down deep and find out what we’re made of. We’re looking forward to that. It’s kind of like you’re taking steps through the process with your team, and it’s an important game because it’s the next one, but it’s a big one with both us being undefeated in the region, so we’re excited for the challenge and to see our growth as a team.”
Carver has yet to be tested, outscoring Kendrick, Spencer and Shaw by a combined score of 161-19.
While Carver has a big-play offense that hasn’t had any trouble putting up points, its defense has given up precious little through three games.
“They’re pretty salty defensively,” Napier said. “They have a lot of returnees off of a really good team last year. Their entire secondary is back. Their defense is really good, so it’ll be a tough test.”
Offensively, Carver quarterback Devin Riles has thrown for 439 yards in three games with five touchdowns, and he has run for 162 yards with seven touchdowns.
Jaiden Credle headlines Carver’s rushing attack with 283 yards on 21 attempts, and he has five touchdowns.
LaGrange, after opening with a 31-19 loss to Upson-Lee, has been rolling.
After close wins over Northside-Columbus and Columbus High, LaGrange has blown out Kendrick and Shaw the past two weeks.
On homecoming night against Shaw, LaGrange scored touchdowns on each of its first-half possessions, and the game was effectively over by the time a homecoming queen was crowned at halftime.
Sophomore quarterback Jaylan Brown, who has excelled in his first season as a starter, completed 12-of-15 passes for 222 yards with a touchdown, and he had five carries for 47 yards with two touchdowns.
Brown’s favorite target against Shaw was A.J. Traylor, who caught five passes for 95 yards.
Magic Johnson had three catches for 54 yards with a touchdown, and Tristan Smith had two receptions for 32 yards.
Kale Gibbs, who missed most of the previous two games with an injury, returned with a flourish with 20 carries for 175 yards and four touchdowns.
Gibbs, despite the time he missed, has more than 700 yards at the halfway point of the regular season, and he’ll no doubt be a focal point of the LaGrange offensive attack against Carver.
Gibbs’ return was timely, with running back Asa Leath unable to go because of an injury.
“He definitely makes a difference for his team,” Napier said. “He’s an explosive player. Asa (Leath) was dinged up, so it was good to be able to have him back.”
Gibbs, the son of previous LaGrange head coach Chuck Gibbs, has been a productive player the past two seasons, but his time on the field was limited because of injuries.
As Gibbs has shown this year, when he’s healthy, he is difficult for any defense to contain.
“He works so hard in the weight room, and he’s been preparing for this moment for a long time,” Napier said. “He works with us, but he also goes above and beyond. It’s definitely paying off for him.”
Junior safety Isaiah Jordan led the defensive effort against Shaw with nine tackles, while senior linebacker Jarno Huzzie had seven tackles with a sack.
Junior defensive back Kobe Jones, who is in his first season as a varsity football player, had two interceptions.
Those players will try to help LaGrange make it five wins in a row, but regardless of the outcome, there will be four more regular-season games to play.
“Our kids will be level-headed,” Napier said. “Win or lose the ballgame, we’ll come back Sunday and next week and prepare for our next opponent, just like good teams do. Regardless of the outcome, good teams keep that mentality up. We made some mistakes, OK let’s learn and build and grow off of the and be prepared for the next opponent, so that’s the mentality our coaching staff will have.”
LAGRANGE VS. CARVER
WHEN: Friday, 7:30 p.m.
WHERE: Callaway Stadium
RECORDS: LaGrange (4-1 overall, 3-0 in Region 2-AAAA); Carver (3-0 overall, 3-0 in Region 2-AAAA)
LAST MEETING: Carver beat LaGrange 51-50 in 2015
ALL-TIME SERIES: LaGrange and Carver both have eight wins