It started with a turnover.
The LaGrange Grangers began their second possession of Friday’s game from their own 14-yard line, and on second down, Austin Carter came up with an interception, giving the Troup Tigers the ball at the 18-yard line in a scoreless game.
It took the Tigers four plays to score, and they were off and running.
Troup ended up scoring touchdowns on its final five possessions of the first half.
By the time the players headed to their respective locker rooms, the Tigers’ remarkable first-half performance left them with a 36-0 lead.
LaGrange scored a pair of touchdowns in the second half and didn’t allow any more points, but the damage was done, and Troup claimed a 36-14 victory.
Troup not only got its season off to a sensational start, but it beat its biggest rival for the fourth time in five years.
“It means a lot. I’m ecstatic,” Troup defensive back Vanquez Bonner said. “I’m very happy. It means a lot, because it’s my last season. We worked all week in practice. We hit on all cylinders.”
The Tigers were an unstoppable force in the first half.
After the Grangers went 35 yards on their opening possession before punting, they accumulated less than 10 yards the rest of the half.
It was a superb showing for a defense that came into the game with a lot of question marks because of so many inexperienced players.
LaGrange picked up three first down on its first possession, but that was about it for the first half.
“It was a huge test for a first game for a young defense,” Troup head coach Lynn Kendall said. “We’ve got some seniors in there, but we have a lot of young players. It was a huge test, a big game for what this game means to the community, and what it means to the players, and both schools. I can’t hardly express how happy I am with the way they stepped up. Solid defense, good solid tackling, very few miscues, aggressive, but also being under control.”
Offensively, Troup used a powerful running game to find the end zone over and over again.
Much of the damage was done by senior running back Dre Towns, who had four touchdowns in the first half.
Towns’ big night had an unfortunate ending, though, when he suffered a broken leg after being tackled in the fourth quarter at the end of a 16-yard run.
Towns, as he’d done all night, was running hard, fighting for extra yardage when he was brought down and suffered the injury.
“Right now, we’re dedicating our season to Dre Towns,” Troup defensive lineman Justice Marable said. “We grew up together. He gave his ankle trying to help us win this game, we’re going to give an arm and a leg for the rest of the season.
Dexter Shealey also had a touchdown run for the Tigers, who enjoyed a big night on the ground with a veteran offensive line leading the way.
“We’ve got good linemen. We came out and ran the ball hard,” Shealey said. “Like coach said, come out and smash them in the mouth.”
Quarterback Will Smith didn’t have to do much passing wise because of the success on the grouind, but he ran the offense well, and he completed a 17-yard pass to Tremayne Tolbert that put the ball on the 1-yard line and set up the final score of the half.
“The offense took advantage of field position and stuck it in the end zone,” Kendall said. “They were very business-like, work-manlike. There were good runs by the running backs.”
The Tigers got an 18-yard run from Towns on their first possession, but the drive stalled and they punted.
After a first-down play went nowhere, Carter came up with the interception on second down, and the Tigers were in business.
A Smith keeper put the ball on the 7, and on third-and-goal from the one, Shealey took it in for the first score.
Michael Young’s extra point gave the Tigers a 7-0 with 1:30 left in the opening quarter.
LaGrange’s next possession ended with a punt, and Troup took over at the Grangers’ 45-yard line.
Back-to-back runs of 26 and eight yards by Mess Bonner put the ball on the LaGrange 11, and three plays later, Towns plunged across the goal line from five yards out.
The extra point was blocked, and Troup’s lead was 13-0.
It got worse for the Grangers when they lost a fumble, and Tristan Thompson recovered the ball at the LaGrange 35-yard line.
The Tigers needed nine plays to find the end zone, with Towns again doing the honors, this time from 12 yards out for his second touchdown of the half.
Young’s extra point put Troup on top 20-0 with 4:26 left in the half.
LaGrange went three-and-out on its next possession, and a Hunter Mowers punt return set the Tigers up at the 34-yard line.
The Tigers were facing a third-and-long when Towns took a handoff.
It looked like the play wasn’t going anywhere, but Towns fought through the line of scrimmage, shook off a few tackles, and rumbled 26 yards for the touchdown.
“That was a spectacular play,” Kendall said.
A Shealey run on the two-point conversion attempt gave Troup a 28-0 lead, with just 1:02 left in the half.
An unfortunate special-teams blunder by the Grangers allowed the Tigers to get in position for another touchdown.
After the kickoff was fumbled, Troup recovered at the LaGrange 18-yard line.
On first down, Smith hooked up with Tolbert, who was tackled just short of the goal line.
On the next play, Towns bulled his way into the end zone for his fourth touchdown, and he also ran in the two-point conversion, and Troup’s lead was 36-0.
In the second half, while the Tigers had some nice drives, they were unable to put any more points on the scoreboard, and the defense surrendered two touchdowns, including a 46-yard scoring pass with nine seconds left in the game.
“I’ve got to hand it to them. They did not quit,” Kendall said of the Grangers. “They came out and played, and that’s what I expect. With Dialleo Burks, that program is going to play with class, and that’s what we do also.”
Kendall said he stressed to his team the importance of playing a complete game.
“The thing is to try to keep the focus,” Kendall said. “You play the entire game. Just because you’re up, or just because you’re down, I hate to sound like Yogi Berra, but it ain’t over until it’s over. There’s a reason he said that.”