That lesson was pounded home last week in a wild, memorable game against Fayette County.
The Tigers, after going up by two touchdowns at the half, found themselves trailing 37-20 in the fourth quarter after giving up 30 straight points.
Troup kept plugging away, though, and it ended up winning 47-37 after scoring 27 straight points in the final quarter.
The lesson head coach Lynn Kendall hopes the players take from that game is that, whether you’re up or down, you have to play until the end.
If you’re ahead, Kendall said “you always have to play like you’re down, like you have to catch up. If you play with that intensity, then you’ll probably be OK.”
And if you’re behind, “you have to keep fighting,” Kendall said. “Momentum will swing back. Whether you hop onto it as it swings by, that’s one of the things you have to be able to do. We were fortunate to do that.”
Obviously Kendall would prefer to not have to come back from a 17-point deficit in the final quarter, but he said you have to prepared for any eventuality.
“Thre are things that aren’t always going to go your way,” he said. “That’s not how life is.”
Last week’s victory was a big one for Troup.
Had the Tigers lost, they still would have been very much alive in the Region 5-AAAA playoff race, but the win puts them in much better position.
Troup (3-5 overall) is 3-2 in region play, and it would be the region’s number three seed with wins over LaGrange this week and Shaw in the regular-season finale.
“We have postseason goals that we’re trying to reach, and this is the next big game for us,” Kendall said. “And then again, it just happens to be the LaGrange-Troup game, or Troup-LaGrange game, however you want to say that. They have goals to get into the postseason just like us.”
Troup is going for its third consecutive win over LaGrange, and to make that a reality, Kendall figures his defense will need to find a way to slow down the Grangers’ high-powered offense.
The Grangers are averaging 32 points per game, and they’d scored at least 30 points in six straight games before last week’s 47-13 loss to Sandy Creek.
Even in that game, LaGrange had more than 300 yards of offense, although it was held to one offensive touchdown.
LaGrange does a lot of its damage through the air, with junior quarterback Zach Giddens spreading the ball around to a host of talented receivers, including the top target, senior Dee Smith.
Kendall said the key for his defense is to keep LaGrange from ripping off the big plays.
“Yards after catch are crucial,” Kendall said. “You have to make the play. You’re not always going to be able to prevent them from catching the ball. But at the same time, you make sure you’re flying to the ball, and making sure that you’re sure-tackling, and that type of thing.”
Kendall added that “at the end of the night, it’s trying to keep them out of the end zone. You can’t get caught up too much in yardage.”
Troup’s offense hasn’t been as prolific as LaGrange’s this season, averaging 23 points a game, but the Tigers are coming off a strong offensive showing in the victory over Fayette County.
The running game, which is Troup’s forte, was formidable, with junior Daryl Dunlap putting up big numbers for the second straight week.
Ricky Frazier also had a long touchdown run.
The Tigers also were effective in the passing game, with sophomore quarterback Will Smith completing a handful of key passes in the fourth quarter, including the go-ahead touchdown to Lemonta Truitt in the closing moments.
“I thought in that game last week, we passed some milestones and reached some goals where we were more balanced with the run and pass game, and we were able to do a number of things we’d been working on all year,” Kendall said.
Troup has gone with a number of different offensive formations this season, from the wishbone to the spread, and Kendall said a lot of that is dictated by what the other team does.
“A lot of times too, it’s whatever the defense presents,” Kendall said. “Sometimes you have to take what a defense gives us. We’d all like to say we’re going to line up and do exactly what we want every play, but you have to make some adjustments. I thought our offense did a very good job of that (against Fayette County).”
The Tigers will hit the field for one final practice today, and Kendall said it has been a terrific week so far.
The one thing he hasn’t had to worry about is making any impassioned speeches to get the players fired up.
It’s LaGrange week, and that’s all the motivation the players need.
“Since I’ve been here at Troup, this isn’t a game where you have to do a whole lot of extra motivating,” Kendall said. “That shows up.
“We’re looking forward to the game. It’s a big game every year. And this year, it’s no different.”