Carver pulls away from LaGrange
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
It looked like something special might be brewing.
In a showdown between two teams with unbeaten region records, the LaGrange Grangers were going toe-to-toe with the Carver Tigers, and it was a tie game midway through the third quarter.
Unfortunately for the Grangers, things got away from them after that, with the Tigers pulling away for a 36-14 victory on a chilly Friday night at Callaway Stadium.
The loss ended a four-game winning streak for the Grangers (4-2 overall), who fell to 3-1 in the region, while the Tigers improved to 4-0, with all of those wins against region opponents.
“We came out and played really good ball for the first half, and then we let the mistakes and the momentum get on top of us,” said LaGrange head coach Matt Napier. “We had a couple of turnovers, and let them pop a big play on a long-down situation. It happens in those type of games. We’re building, and we’re growing, and we’re so close to being there. We can taste it. It’s just a matter of how we’ll respond now that we got hit and it didn’t go our way.”
Despite Friday’s loss, the Grangers are in the midst of a dramatic turnaround season after winning a combined six games in the previous four years.
LaGrange is off next week, and it will look to get back on the winning track when it hosts Jordan on Oct. 29.
“I’m proud of the effort,” Napier said. “They played extremely hard. Defensively, those guys fought all night long. They were put in some bad situations and were able to bounce back, so I’m proud of their effort, proud of their resiliency. We’ve just got to go and learn from it and get better.”
The Grangers, after giving up a touchdown on the opening possession of the second half, answered with a scoring drive of their own to deadlock the score at 14-14 with 8:36 left in the third quarter.
The Tigers came right back and drove for the go-ahead touchdown, and the Grangers’ ensuing possession ended with a lost fumble at their own 2-yard line.
Carver scored on the next play, and it led 28-14 after the successful two-point conversion.
Following an interception in the fourth quarter, Carver added another touchdown and a two-point conversion to complete the scoring.
Quarterback Jaylan Brown had both of LaGrange’s touchdowns, scoring on runs of 10 yards and two yards, and Micah Prophett made both of his extra-point attempts.
For Carver, Jamari Riley had three touchdown runs, including one that covered 47 yards, Jaiden Credle had a 20-yard scoring run, and Devin Riles threw a 9-yard touchdown pass to JaMichael Murray.
“When you fight and work like the kids have, you’re upset and you’re mad because of losing, but the big deal is in the next couple of days you’ve got to put it behind you, keep our family tight, and just keep pushing,” Napier said.
The Grangers, taking advantage of a special-teams miscue by the Tigers, struck first.
Carver’s punt returner lost control of the ball, and LaGrange came up with the recovery at the 10-yard line.
On the next play, Brown’s 10-yard touchdown run and Prophett’s extra point gave LaGrange a 7-0 lead with 1:34 left in the first quarter.
Carver answered with a Credle 20-yard touchdown run, and Montavious Martin had the pass break-up on the two-point attempt, and LaGrange led 7-6 with 9:39 left in the first half.
The Tigers had the ball at the end of a half with a chance to take the lead, but Thad Dixon and David Paredes came through with back-to-back sacks, and time ran out following an incomplete pass, and the Grangers headed to their locker room with a 7-6 lead.
The Tigers had the ball first in the second half, and they marched down the field and scored on a Riley 47-yard touchdown run, and the two-point play gave them a 14-7 lead with 9:43 left in the third quarter.
The Grangers responded with their most impressive drive of the night, going 71 yards in five plays for the tying touchdown.
Running back Kale Gibbs, who is having a monster senior season, had runs of 20 yards and 27 yards to get the ball deep in Carver territory.
Following a Carver facemask penalty, Brown scored on a 2-yard run, and Prophett made the extra point, and the game was tied at 14-14 with 8:36 to play in the third quarter.
The back-and-forth affair continued with Carver driving for the go-ahead touchdown, with Riley taking it into the end zone from three yards out.
LaGrange trailed 20-14 with 4:37 showing on the clock in the third quarter.
Moments later, disaster struck for the Grangers, who lost a fumble, with the Tigers recovering the ball at the 4-yard line.
On the next play, Riley scored on a 4-yard run, and the two-point conversion pushed the lead to 28-14.
It got worse for the Grangers when they fumbled the ensuing kickoff, but the defense made a stand, with the Tigers turning the ball over on downs.
“To be able to bow our neck right there and make a couple of plays says a lot about the kids and their effort,” Napier said.
The Grangers, taking over at their own 31-yard line, made it to the Tigers 15-yard line, but that scoring opportunity ended with a fourth-down sack of Brown.
It was still a 14-point game when Carver’s Desheen Jackson picked off a Brown pass with 4:57 remaining in the game.
Two plays later, Riles found Murray for a 9-yard touchdown, and a successful two-point play capped the scoring and gave Carver a 36-14 lead.
LaGrange made it into Carver territory on its next drive before a fourth-down play failed, and Carver ran out the clock.