At LaGrange High School, football is serious stuff.
It’s more than a game. It’s a way of life. Over the last 105 years, LaGrange High has won 760 football games, 19 region and conference titles and 11 state championships.
“We’re the No. 2 program in Georgia (all-time behind Valdosta). We will shy away from nobody. We play the best of the best. We’re committed, and the mystique is still hanging around,” said Grangers Head Coach Dialleo Burks. He is very much a part of the winning tradition at La-Grange. Burks, the ex-wide receiver and starting defensive back, played for the Grangers national championship squad in 1991. Burks was also a player on two region championship football teams at LHS.
“This is home. Our standard is excellence – in the class room and on the field. We have a lot of young guys that want to be good,” said Burks.
That is especially true since last season. Burks’team had a very un-Granger-like season in 2015 with a 5-5 record. LaGrange High did not make it to the Class AAAAA state playoffs.
“We underachieved last year, and injuries killed us. We lost six starters (for the season),” said Burks.
He and his Granger football team plan to make up for all of that. This could be a banner season for La-Grange High in 2016. The Grangers have the players, the game plan and the off season motivation.
They also think they have everything in place to make a state championship run. It’s been 12 years since the Grangers won their last state title (in 2004).
For a historic program like LaGrange, that is long enough.
“We’re going to take it game-by-game, but our goal is to go 15-0. Our goal is to win the state championship. We’re developing depth, and we’re teaching schemes. We have guys that can get the job done,” said Burks.
The Grangers return five starters on offense. All five of those players are seniors, including quarterback Laperrion Perry, running back Ahmad Ogletree, center Coy Tedescucci, tackle Jordan Ragan and lineman Marques Payne. Perry is the leader of all leaders for the Grangers.
Perry passed for 1,465 yards and 14 touchdowns last season. Perry, the ultimate dual threat quarterback, also ran for 1,456 yards and 11 touchdowns. And this year, Perry is even better.
“We’ve got the best player in the state of Georgia (with Perry). He is explosive, and he’s a game-changer. He can go the distance. Laperrion is a runner, but he can throw the ball, too,” said Burks, who used to earn his living in the NFL with the Oakland Raiders and the Philadelphia Eagles.
Burks is a coach now and a good one. He and the Grangers will return some experience on defense, too, this season. Six LaGrange High starters are back on defense with junior free safety Bo Russell, linebackers Jadarius Young and James Clark, senior linemen DeAndre Pollard, and Johnathan Olajubutu and junior lineman Cornell Kendrick.
“We have size and speed. We will be physical. We want a defense that is going to fly around,” said Burks.
The Grangers will get their season started with a backyard rivalry with the Callaway Cavaliers on Aug. 19.
Chris Fernsler Sports Writer