WARNER ROBINS -- For the second straight week, Houston County opened the game with a long pass for a touchdown.
This time, it ended much better.
The Bears scored on their first offensive play and remained in control the rest of the way for a 55-34 win Thursday over LaGrange in the first round of the GHSA Class AAAAA playoffs at McConnell-Talbert Stadium.
Houston County improved to 9-2 and will either travel to Lanier or host Sequoyah next week. LaGrange’s season ends at 5-6.
Quarterback Jake Fromm completed 63 percent of his passes for 359 yards and two touchdowns.
Senior running Kenny Gant carried 22 times for 122 yards and four touchdowns, while Jordan Strevig added two field goals
LaGrange running back Mon Denson, a South Carolina commitment, had 31 carries for 208 yards, 144 in the second half.
Any concerns of a lingering effect from last week’s heartbreaking 34-33 loss to Northside disappeared fairly quickly as the Bears weren’t threatened for very long en route to a win in their first home playoff game.
LaGrange began with a nice drive that ended with Denson being stuffed at the 15 on fourth down.
Rather than go deep down the left side, as the Bears did last week against Northside on the game’s first play from scrimmage, Fromm threw short to Darion Anderson on a slip screen, and he slipped through the LaGrange defense for the touchdown.
Gant ran in the conversion for an 8-0 lead with 5:32 left in the first.
The Bears followed the Grangers’ three-and-out with an eight-play, 55-yard drive, helped by a LaGrange personal foul on third-and-9, with Gant going right, stopping and cutting for the 2-yard score.
The conversion pass failed, and the Bears led 14-0 with 90 seconds left in the first quarter.
LaGrange only paid for a 17-yard punt with a 25-yard Strevig field goal for a 17-0 lead. The Grangers got on the board shortly thereafter on quarterback Amad Ogletree’s 7-yard run.
But the sliver of momentum lasted six plays, Houston County’s scoring drive boosted by a nice catch and run by Jaylen Searcy for 55 yards to set up Gant’s 6-yard run with 5:43 left in the half.
The Bears were on the verge of cracking the 30-point mark in the final seconds of the first half but went deep into the back of the playbook. Gant took the handoff and then tried a jump pass into the end zone. It was short and picked off by Triston Dozier, who returned it to the Houston County 34 with 5.3 seconds left. A long pass was incomplete, and the lead was 24-7.
Gant went 40 yards for a score early in the third, and Strevig added a field goal.
The game was seconds away from a running clock for the fourth quarter, but Denson went around the right side for a 10-yard touchdown on the third quarter’s final play. But the Bears recovered a fumble after LaGrange covered the onside kick and scored seven plays later, and the lead was 48-15 with 10:20 left.