Taking on the best

By Kevin Eckleberry Sports Editor

October 3, 2013

Challenges don’t come much greater than this one.

The Sandy Creek Patriots are the defending Class AAAA state champions, they’ve won three state titles in four years, and they’ve scored at least 50 points in three straight games this season.

Tonight in Tyrone, the Troup Tigers will give the Patriots their best shot when the two teams get together for a Region 5-AAAA showdown.

Both teams are 1-0 in the region after impressive performances last week.

Troup dominated Alexander 37-10, and Sandy Creek stuffed Fayette County 54-19.

“We’re looking forward to playing them. It’s going to be a great challenge for us,” Troup head coach Lynn Kendall said. “It’s a great opportunity for our football program. They’re good, and they have been good for awhile. They do a great job, a fantastic job, and that program is established to where they want it. They’re rolling. Those are some of the things we’re pushing for.”

This will be the third straight season Troup and Sandy Creek have played.

In 2011, the two teams met in the second round of the state playoffs, and Sandy Creek won 42-14.

Last year, Troup and Sandy Creek were in the same region for the first time, and the Patriots won 48-10 at Callaway Stadium.

“Having played them twice before, we know what they do,” Kendall said. “I don’t expect a bunch of surprises. You have to stop them. And when you’re on offense, you have to make things happen. They have good players, and they’re well-coached. These kind of games, they’re why you play and coach, to have those opportunities. We’re ready to get on the bus and go.”

The Tigers head into the game with a 2-2 record.

They beat Redan 46-0 in their opener before losing to Callaway 34-21 and Newnan 17-7.

In both losses, the Tigers hurt themselves with some costly mistakes, most notably in the turnover department.

Troup had five turnovers against Callaway, and two of the lost fumbles were returned for touchdowns.

Troup had four more turnovers against Newnan, and it also had more than 100 yards in penalties.

Last week against Alexander, Troup played a much cleaner game, and the result was a one-sided win.

“You already have 11 guys over there trying to beat you. Don’t beat yourself. That’s one of the things we have to keep pushing for,” Kendall said. “Against any team you can’t make mistakes. Against real good teams, you definitely can’t make mistakes.”

Kendall added that he’s “very pleased with our game plan we have going in. I think the players understand what we’re going to try to do. We just have to execute. That’s what it comes down to, and play every down.”

Offensively, the Tigers will look to control things with their potent running game.

Dre Towns and Daryl Dunlap give the Tigers a strong one-two combination at running back.

Towns has more than 500 yards in four games, and Dunlap has more than 400 yards.

Those two players, along with a handful of other running backs, run behind a powerful offensive line.

“We have several backs that we can roll in, and we have a solid offensive line that is still young,” Kendall said.

Troup also has a veteran quarterback in junior Will Smith, and while he hasn’t thrown the ball much this season, he has been effective when he has gone to the air, with most of the big plays going to wide receiver Quaydo Florence.

“You just feel so much confidence with (Florence),” Kendall said. “If he’s in the area, he’s going to catch it.”

Defensively, Troup is strong up front, with defensive ends Devonte Cofield and R.J. Hairston along with defensive tackles Dikembe Billingslea and Devin Power.

Troup’s linebackers and secondary players have also stepped up to the challenge this season.

Kendall is hoping the Troup defense can limit the number of explosive offensive plays by the Patriots.

“From a defensive standpoint, you want to make people work for what they get,” Kendall said. “And take advantage of mistakes that are created.”