The Troup Tigers had a couple of reasons to celebrate Friday night.
They not only pulled away in the second half to beat the rival LaGrange Grangers 27-8, but they earned an invitation to the state playoffs in the process.
Troup (5-4 overall) improved to 4-2 in Region 5-AAAA, and it has wrapped up one of the region’s four playoff spots heading into its regular-season finale against Shaw next week.
LaGrange, meanwhile, saw its playoff hopes disappear with Friday’s loss.
The Grangers (3-6, 3-3 in region play) finishes the season next week at Carrollton.
“It’s my last time playing LaGrange,” said Dikembe Billingslea, a senior defensive lineman for Troup. “I’m glad I got a chance to beat them.”
LaGrange led 8-6 at the half, but Troup dominated the second half.
LaGrange muffed the opening kickoff in the second half, and Troup drove for the go-ahead score.
The Tigers controlled the game from there on both sides of the ball, and they put the game away with a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns.
“We went into the halftime and they were up,” Billingslea said. “We felt we had to come out and prove something.”
As the game went along, Troup’s running game started to take control, with Daryl Dunlap and Dre Towns each ripping off big runs.
In the fourth quarter, Towns had a 16-yard scoring run, and Dunlap capped the scoring with a 36-yard run.
“Offensively, we made a couple of adjustments, and I thought we did a good job of establishing a new line of scrimmage,” Troup head coach Lynn Kendall said. “We started getting some first downs, and we got some good quality runs by Daryl Dunlap, and Dre Towns. And Mess Bonner added to that as well.”
LaGrange head coach Donnie Branch, meanwhile, felt his defense spent too much time on the field.
“We don’t have much depth on defense,” Branch said. “We couldn’t move the football, so we kind of left our defense out there, hung them out to dry.”
Troup struck first in the game.
After a LaGrange fumble on its first possesssion, the Tigers went 47 yards in five plays, with Towns finishing off the drive with a 26-yard scoring run.
The Grangers responded with a nice drive of their own.
Quarterback Wynton Heard found Hayden Olive for a 59-yard completion to the 8-yard line, but the Grangers next three plays netted just five yards.
On fourth down, LaGrange attempted a fake field goal, but it was unsuccessful.
LaGrange’s defense then came through with a big play.
On third down, LaGrange’s Kimani Barnes made a tackle at the 1-yard line for a big loss, and Troup had to punt.
On the punt attempt, the snap was low, and it went through the end zone for a safety, and Troup’s lead was 6-2 with 3:05 left in the first quarter.
The Grangers kept the momentum going with a 47-yard scoring drive following the free kick, with Heard hitting Olive for a 10-yard touchdown pass with 17 seconds left in the first quarte, and it was an 8-6 game.
Neither team scored in the second quarter, and LaGrange headed to the locker room ahead by two.
It didn’t take Troup long to grab momentum in the third quarter.
The kickoff landed in no man’s land, and a Troup player was able to recover the ball at the LaGrange 26-yard line.
Towns followed that up with a 14-yard run, and Dunlap was tackled inches from the goal line after an 8-yard run.
On the next play, quarterback Will Smith’s 1-yard keeper gave Troup the lead, and Michael Young made the extra point to push the lead to 13-8.
The Tigers were stopped on their next two possessions, but when they got the ball at the LaGrange 42-yard line at the start of the fourth quarter, they only needed three plays to score.
Dunlap had a 24-yard run, and two plays later, Towns raced into the end zone from 16 yards out, and Young’s extra point gave Troup a 20-8 lead with 11 minutes remaining.
LaGrange’s offense went three-and-out on its next possession, and Troup took over at its own 39-yard line after a punt.
The Tigers went to work, going 71 yards in seven plays, with Dunlap’s 36-yard run and Young’s extra point giving Troup a 27-8 lead with 5:47 remaining.
The Grangers picked up a first down on their next drive on a 15-yard completion from Heard to Benny Gray, but when a fourth-down play failed, they had to give the ball back up.
LaGrange was unable to move the ball on its final possession, and Troup ran out the clock.
“You try to look at who had a great game, and there were a bunch who made some big plays,” Kendall said. “Tonight was a team effort. And that’s really what you’re looking for.”