By Kevin Eckleberry Sports Editor
October 9, 2013
It’ll be another epic challenge for the Troup Tigers.
A week ago, the Tigers took on the top-ranked Sandy Creek Patriots, who are trying to win a fourth state championship in five years.
Less than a week later, Troup will play a Carrollton team that looks capable of winning a state title of its own.
The Trojans are 5-0, and they’ve won those games by an average score of 48-7.
Today at Callaway Stadium, Troup will try to slow down the Carrollton juggernaut when the two teams get together for a Region 5-AAAA showdown.
Troup (2-3 overall) fell to 1-1 in the region with Friday’s 21-0 loss to Sandy Creek, while Carrollton is 2-0 in region play after crushing Fayette County 52-14.
“Carrollton has a fine football team,” Troup head coach Lynn Kendall said. “They’re solid in all phases. The key to winning the game is pretty simple. Don’t turn the ball over, don’t have a lot of penalties. In a game like this, that is paramount.”
The Trojans, who are second to Sandy Creek in the most recent Georgia Associated Press rankings, have been getting it done on both sides of the ball.
With quarterback Wil Garrett leading the way, the Trojans have been unstoppable on offense.
Garrett is a dual threat, and he ran for two touchdowns and threw for another last week.
The Trojans haven’t been too shabby on defense either, delivering two shutout victories while not allowing more than 14 points in a game.
The Trojans’ smallest margin of victory was 21 points in the first week against Oxford, Ala.
Carrollton and Sandy Creek are the two prohibitive favorites in the region, and they’ll play on Nov. 1.
Against Sandy Creek, Troup showed it has the ability to hang tough with one of the state’s top teams.
Troup’s defense was particularly impressive in slowing a Sandy Creek team that had scored at least 50 points in three straight games.
And while Troup’s offense didn’t score, it did put together a number of nice drives that just didn’t yield points.
Senior Daryl Dunlap, a running back and linebacker, said the team is ready for tonight’s challenge, especially with the game being played at Callaway Stadium.
“Since we’ve got home field advantage, I’m more confident,” Dunlap said. “And as far as their ranking and stuff, I don’t pay that any mind. They put on their pads just like we do.”
Senior R.J. Hairston is a defensive lineman, and he said the Sandy Creek game did a lot for the confidence of the defensive players.
“We feel like, if we stopped a powerhouse like Sandy Creek, we can stop anybody,” Hairston said. “That’s the kind of swagger and confidence we have in ourselves right now.”
That defense was on the field a lot Friday night, but it stood tall.
The Patriots scored a pair of touchdowns in the second quarter, and they didn’t score again until the fourth quarter.
One of the players responsible for Troup’s defensive success was linebacker Devonte Swanson, who had a big game with 11 tackles and five quarterback hurries.
“Devonte Swanson had a great night at will linebacker,” Kendall said.
Kendall said that after the game, Swanson was congratulated by some Sandy Creek fans who appreciated his effort.
“He left an impression. That was great for him,” Kendall said. “He impressed a lot of people the other night.”
Kendall also said Troup’s defensive line did a nice job of controlling the line of scrimmage.
Offensively, it was tough sledding for Troup, but there were some bright spots.
Kendall was pleased with the performance of the men up front.
“Our offensive line battled all night,” Kendall said. “Some of them had their best game against one of the top teams.”
Dunlap and fellow running back Dre Towns both fought for some tough yards, and quarterback Will Smith completed some nice passes to Hairston and wide receiver Quaydo Florence.
Hairston’s primary position is defensive end, but his role on offense is increasing as a tight end.
“I like it. I think I can fit in real good with that phase,” Hairston said. “I can show that versatility.”
Florence, meanwhile, continued to make big plays, and Kendall said one catch he made on the sideline was a thing of beauty.
Florence made the catch while deftly keeping a foot inbounds.
“That catch right there, I don’t care if it’s high school, college, NFL, that was a quality catch,” Kendall said.
Last week was a big-time challenge for the Tigers, and Kendall knows his players face another difficult task tonight.
“Last week was a real battle. And I expect the same thing (tonight),” Kendall said. “ I hope being at home is going to give us a little bit of an edge.”
Kendall added that win or lose, “we just want to continue to improve. That’s been our goal, regardless of the outcome of the game. I thought last week we improved again. The challenge here is to put it all together and win a ballgame.”