They came to defend their championship, and for the linemen from Troup High, it was mission accomplished.
Competing in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes Lineman Challenge on Thursday at Callaway Stadium, one of Troup’s two teams finished at the top of the heap when the final event was contested.
Troup won the inaugural FCA lineman challenge a year ago at Granger Park.
“We had to defend it from last year, so we were ready,” said senior offensive lineman Mitch Mathes. “We were confident in what coach (Jay) Floyd and the coaches had been doing for us.”
The linemen competed in a number of different events, and it wasn’t just about strength, although that was a big part of it.
“It’s speed, agility, and there’s endurance, too,” Troup head coach Lynn Kendall said. “It’s not just how strong you are, it’s how functionable you are with that strength. I’m real proud of these guys.”
During the morning session, the five-man teams competed in eight events.
The teams were then seeded based on how well they’d done in those events, and after a lunch break, it came down to a final event to determine a winner.
Two teams faced off in a simple event, the tire pull.
A tire was placed between two players, and they raced to grab it.
The player who was able to pull any part of the tire across his team’s line was declared the winner, and once a five-man team had three wins, that was that.
Troup beat all comers in that event to earn the victory.
Mathes was the only player who was on last year’s winning team.
The other team members of this year’s winning team were Tristan Thompson, Jason Fernandez, O.J. Zeigler and Hudson Newton.
“We all work hard,” Thompson said. “That’s what we were here to do is win.”
Fernandez, who along with Mathes, Thompson and Newton is a returning starter on the offensive line, said the players all pull for each other, and that helped a lot on Thursday.
“We all have a huge connection,” Fernandez said. “We’re all best friends. We’re all trying our best to cheer each other on. We’re always there for each other.”
In the tire pull, Kendall felt the desire to win among his players made a big difference.
“There’s a lot of will to win, the will to overcome adversity,” Kendall said. “One of your teammates might go up there and get a bad handle on it, and now you have to step up. And I thought they did great.”
In a semifinal match, Fernandez was unable to get a grasp on the tire, and he lost, but Kendall was proud of the way he came back the next time and won.
“Jason had that whif, but he came right back and drug the guy across the line, the tire and the guy,” Kendall said.
During the eight events leading up to the tire pull, Troup’s number one team had the best overall performance, winning three of the events and placing second in two others.
Troup’s second team also fared well and ended up finishing ninth.
“I do want to say, these guys, it’s a testament about how hard these guys work, and it’s a testament to the grit they have,” Kendall said. “And it’s a testament to our offensive and defensive line coaches, coach (Chase) Wilbanks, coach Floyd, and also our strength program run by coach Floyd. We put an awful lot of emphasis into our strength and conditioning.”