Newnan 42, LaGrange 20
Cougars scratch back in big way
by Doug Gorman
LAGRANGE—It didn't take long for the Newnan Cougars to shake off last week's opening loss to Marietta.
Newnan relied on big plays from the offense, defense and punt return game to knock off LaGrange 42-20 Friday night in the Cougars’ second contest of the season on the road at Callaway Stadium.
“I think the kids really handle the loss last week better than the coaching staff did” said Newnan head coach Mike McDonald. “They really did a good job of getting ready to play. We put them through some tough practices, and they responded.” McDonald admitted having a game under its belt played in Newnan’s favor.
“It helped that we had already played a game,” McDonald said. “We showed a lot of improvement.”
Newnan gave up the first score on the opening series, but dominated most of the way.
“Instead of saying here we go again, our guys fought and we got back in the game,” McDonald said.
Junior Bailey Bryant threw touchdown passes of 17, 20 and 68 yards en route to the win.
“He did a really good job of hanging on there,” McDonald said. “He took a couple of shots, but overall, I think our offensive line did a really good job of picking up the blitz and protecting him.”
The Cougars offense got rolling in the second and third quarter, scoring four straight touchdowns.
The third quarter turned into a shootout, but Newnan pulled away scoring three touchdowns in the span of about eight minutes to take a 35-14 lead into the final quarter.
The two teams exchanged touchdowns in the first two minutes of the third quarter to start the second-half fireworks.
LaGrange opened the second half with a little bit of trickery, recovering the onside kick after catching the Cougars off guard.
On just the second play of the series, Mon Denson tied the game at 14 with a 50-yard run.
That was the last time LaGrange showed any kind of threat.
McDonald said overcoming the onside kick to start the second half was huge.
“We really played well in the third quarter, and I think we kind of dominated the second quarter too.”McDonald said.
After giving up of the onside kick, Newnan marched right down field converting a five-play drive into a touchdown when Bryant connected with Immanuel Griggs on a 20-yard pass to put Newnan up 21-14.
The Cougars were just getting warmed up in the third quarter.
Bailey hit J.K . Britt on a 68-yard pass to give the Cougars a 28-14 lead with a little more than four minutes left in the third quarter.
Newnan built a 35-14 lead two minutes later when Kelvin Khyyam scored on a 27-yard sprint.
The Cougars could have found their go-to guy on both sides of the line of scrimmage with Britt’s performance during Friday night’s victory.
Britt came up with big plays on offense, broke up two passes on defense after the Grangers marched into Newnan territory, and set the Cougars up in LaGrange territory after two long punt returns.
He ended the night with two touchdowns.
“That’s really what we are expecting out of him, we know he has that type of talent,” said McDonald.
Leading 14-7, Newnan appeared ready to throw the knockout punch after marching the ball inside the LaGrange 2 right before the end of the first half, but the drive end when Britt fumbled at the Grangers two with 30 second remaining.
It was really the only mistake the player, who seldom comes off the field made.
“It was too bad we fumbled the football right before the end of the first half, but again we showed we could bounce back,” McDonald said.
Britt also showed he could get it done on defense, breaking up two LaGrange pass attempts after they marched the ball inside Newnan territory.
The plays broke the Grangers back as they failed to score on two different series.
LaGrange marched 70 yards on the first series of the game to take the 7-0 lead. The big play of the drive came when Benny Gray ran for 17 yards to pick up the first down on a fourth and short.
Two plays later, quarterback Weyton Gray completed a 24-yard touchdown pass to Tavone Rivers in the corner of the end zone.
Newnan had the ball just one time in the first quarter, after LaGrange used a ball-control offense, but after taking over in the second quarter, Newnan marched 80-yard to tie the game.
Bryan showed he could match Heard's fourth-down drama, throwing his own touchdown pass, when he hit Randall Arnold on a 17-yard pass.
The score came right after a Newnan time out after it debated whether to go for it or kick the 34-yard field goal.
It was the second of back-to-back scores by the Cougars.
After forcing the Grangers to punt on its next series, Britt took the punt and returned it from his own 35 to the LaGrange 23.
Three plays into the series, Britt struck with the go-ahead touchdown on an 8-yard run to give the Cougars a 14-7 lead.
It doesn’t get any easier next week for Newnan as they travel to Sandy Creek for a game against the defending Class AAAA champions.