Led by highly-touted junior running back J.K. Dobbins, La Grange High School began its season by knocking off Liberty Hill on the road. The Panthers reached the state semifinals in 2014 before losing to eventual state champion, Navasota, making the win for La Grange that much sweeter and putting an exclamation point on the preseason hype.
Dobbins, who is a future FBS player and one of the most diverse backs in the 2017 recruiting class, accounted for all five La Grange touchdowns. He finished the game with 282 yards rushing with a long-run of 73 yards.
“He’s a special player. One of the best players we faced last season and he was just a sophomore. He’s not a huge kid, but he avoids big hits and can hurt you in so many different ways,” a fellow District 11-4A Div. II coach said. “He’s almost impossible to scheme to stop because La Grange does a great job finding different ways to get him the ball. He seems like a really hard-working kid from what I’ve heard. He’ll be tough for anyone he plays for the next two seasons and we’ll all be watching him on Saturdays real soon.”
La Grange last lost a regular season game in 2012, so it isn’t just Dobbins who has helped head coach Matt Kates build the program into one of the favorites to take home a state championship in 2015. Dobbins is unquestionably the focal point of the La Grange offense, but the defense held a very good Liberty Hill offense to just 20 points.
The Leopards got a taste of what of the level they need to achieve to reach a state championship game last year when their lone loss of the season came to state finalist, West Orange-Stark, in the state quarterfinals. Losing like that to a really good team can be the catalyst a program needs to reach new heights.
And La Grange has the tools to reach those heights in 2014 because of Dobbins, quarterback Aaron Janda, an experienced offensive line and an opportunistic defense that gets to practice every day against one of the best players in the state. That defense is led by linebacker John Garza and a lot of depth along the defensive line. Garza recorded 16 tackles in the win against Liberty Hill.
La Grange likely won’t face another team as talented as Liberty Hill until the playoffs, but the state-ranked Leopards are on the road the next two weeks against Columbus and La Vernia, respectfully, before returning home to face Taylor. The Ducks knocked off Robinson in Week 1 and may be La Grange’s sternest test until at least district play.