His comments to the players on the importance of Friday’s game against Shaw were no exception.
“Win it and you’re in it. If not, that ends the season,” Kendall said before Wednesday’s practice. “Same thing for Shaw. We’re both 3-3 (in Region 5-AAAA), we’ve beaten the same people and we’ve lost to the same people. It’s a playoff to get into the playoffs. However you want to look at it, it’s what it is.”
Kendall said he and his staff discussed several playoff scenarios with the team just a few weeks ago, this being one of them.
The preferred scenario was a win over LaGrange last week would have secured a spot for Troup in the playoffs.
That didn’t happen, so now the Tigers face a do-or-die situation come 7:30 p.m. Friday at Kinnett Stadium in Columbus.
Shaw comes in the game with a 5-4 record and a 3-3 region mark.
Troup is 3-6 overall, but it is also 3-3 in the region.
The winner will be the region’s fourth seed for the state playoffs, while the season will end for the loser.
It won’t be easy.
Shaw is led by quarterback Chandler Whittlesey, a dynamic field general who can make things happen on the ground or in the air. Whittlesey threw for 289 yards on 16-of-29 passing over Columbus two weeks ago. He only played three quarters in that game.
Last week in Shaw’s 34-23 win over Fayette County, Whittlesey threw for three touchdowns and 199 yards, and that was just in the first half.
“They’re a good team,” Kendall said. “They’re well-coached. They’ve got good speed. Their quarterback (Whittlesey) throws well, but he can also run. I definitely think he’s a big threat. He’s a run-pass threat. He’s the type of guy you can get a good pass rush on him, but if you don’t contain him, then he’ll get outside and make something happen and if you don’t have your inside pressure, he’ll take off up the field.”
Kendall also said Shaw has several good receivers who are capable of running after they catch a pass.
“They will run the ball as well,” Kendall noted. “They’re athletic and they’ve got the same motivation we have. That’s another thing that makes it interesting. This is the last game of the year. There’s something riding on it. I’m sure their coaches are telling them exactly the same thing we’re telling our players.”
Fortunately for Troup, the injury bug has been minimized.
Linebacker and running back Dalton Hadley has been nursing a shoulder and wrist injury for half the season and Kendall said “we’re hoping to get him back.”
Also, defensive back Michael Tatum is out for the season after suffering an ankle injury earlier in the year.
Other than that, the Tigers are ready to go.
Troup will be looking to several players to take on key roles in Friday’s must-win game, including running back Daryl Dunlap, who rushed for who rushed for 152 yards against Fayette County two weeks ago, 70 against LaGrange last week and 315 yards against Columbus. Dunlap is on the verge of breaking the 1,000 yard rushing mark for the season. He was not a regular at the tailback slot during the first part of the season, but he has become the go-to man.
“Daryl’s looking good,” Kendall said. “He’s had a good practice the last couple of days. I think he’s motivated. One thing, he wants to win ball games, but from a personal standpoint, for any running back, that’s a goal, a thousand yards.”
The Tigers will also be looking for a big game from quarterback Will Smith. The sophomore signal-caller threw for 129 yards against Lagrange last week, but the Tigers will need a performance reminiscent of his game at Fayette County two weeks ago if they hope to win Friday and make the playoffs.
In that game, Smith threw two fourth-quarter touchdown passes while leading the team to the 47-37 victory.
“He’s had a good week of practice,” Kendall said of Smith.
One of Smith’s targest will likely be Malcolm Tatum.
Tatum has had 14 receptions in the past two weeks plus while starting at defensive back as well.
“Malcolm is one of the guys that hardly ever comes off the field,” Kendall said of the senior. “He’s on the field a lot. He’s just very valuable. I’ll be honest, he’d probably not have it no other way. It’s hard to get him out to get some rest.”
Tatum had five receptions in the LaGrange game and nine against Fayette County.
“Plus, he’s playing safety,” Kendall said. “He’s covering a lot of ground.”
Troup beat Shaw 19-12 last season on the way to an 8-2 regular season and a second-place finish in the region.