Strong defense spurs Troup in second half
LAGRANGE – The goal was a simple, if ambitious one.
In the first half of Thursday’s game at Callaway Stadium, Cedartown had no trouble moving the ball, and it scored three touchdowns to take a 20-13 lead over Troup.
Troup knew if it was going to win the game, the defense was going to have to perform better in the second half.
So the objective for Troup’s defense was to come out in the second half and toss a shutout.
“That was the mindset,” said senior Ken Truitt, a defensive back. “We’re not going to give up another point.”
The Tigers made it happen.
A Troup defense that has been at its best in the second halves of games this season did indeed hold Cedartown scoreless in the second half, and that was the primary reason the home team escaped with a victory.
The Tigers, taking advantage of a short field, scored 10 points on their first two possessions of the second half, and that was enough to propel them to a 23-20 victory.
It was a critical win for the Tigers (7-1 overall), who improved to 4-0 in Region 5-AAAA and remained tied for first place with Cartersville.
Troup will finish no lower than second in the region, meaning it will be at home for the first round of the state playoffs, and it will play Cartersville in two weeks for the region championship.
Troup will play Central-Carroll next week before finishing the regular season against Cartersville.
Against Cedartown, Troup’s defense was the story.
The Bulldogs, with quarterback Trevon Wofford leading the way, found the end zone three times in the first two quarters.
Wofford threw two touchdown passes to Quan Neal, including one on the final play of the first half.
The junior also had a touchdown run in the first half, and the Tigers were having all sorts of difficulties corraling him.
“We didn’t play a great first half,” Troup junior linebacker Kevin Martin said. “We had to come out in the second half and redeem ourselves.”
The Bulldogs had five possessions in the second half, and they came up empty on each of them.
Cedartown made it to the Troup 15-yard line early in the fourth quarter, but that drive ended with a lost fumble that was recovered by Martin.
Cedartown also threatened in the game’s closing moments.
After taking over at their own 1-yard line following a Carson Wreyford punt, Cedartown made it all the way to the Troup 36-yard line.
Wofford threw a perfect pass in the right corner of the end zone and TJ Martin got his hands on the ball and it looked like he may have made the catch, but the referee on the spot ruled it an incomplete pass.
An incomplete pass on fourth down ended Cedartown’s hopes, and Troup had the win.
“I’m very proud of our defensive staff,” Troup head coach Tanner Glisson said. “They made great adjustments in the second half. They shut them out in the second half, and that was important.”
Cedartown went three-and-out on its first two possessions of the second half.
On Cedartown’s second possession of the half, Troup’s King Mwikuta came through with a third-down sack to force a punt.
When the Bulldogs got the ball back, they made it to the 14-yard line, and Mwikuta made a tackle in the backfield on first down.
On the next play, the Bulldogs fumbled, and Martin was on the spot with the recovery.
“Everybody is trying to get to the ball,” Martin said. “Every helmet is trying to get to the ball. When the ball comes out, everybody is close to it. We just fall on it.”
Cedartown’s fourth possession of the second half ended with another fumble.
After a completed pass, a Cedartown player lost control of the ball, and Troup’s Chanse Hill fell on it.
That was the last of Cedartown’s five turnovers.
Two of them came on fumbled kickoff returns, Truitt had an interception in the first half, and there were the two lost fumbles in the second half.
“You can’t turn the ball over five times, two of them on kickoff returns, and expect to beat a good football team,” Cedartown coach Scott Hendrix said. “We made enough mistakes and that ended up getting us.”
Even with the mistakes, the Bulldogs put 20 points on the scoreboard in the first half.
Cedartown’s offense found the going much more difficult in the second half, and that was a credit to an inspired Troup defense.
Hill said defensive coordinator Micah Alba had the players ready to go in the second half.
“Coach Alba, he was in there fired up,” Hill said. “We believed in ourselves, and came out and played as hard as we could.”
Troup’s offense wasn’t at its sharpest.
Quarterback Montez Crowe, who is having a fantastic junior season, threw four interceptions, all in the first half.
The Tigers didn’t have any turnovers in the second half, though, and Crowe helped keep the chains moving with some key runs, and he didn’t hesitate to take on defenders head on.
“I though he ran very, very hard on a couple of key runs,” Glisson said. “He’s just a winner. We were going to stick with him, and just ride him.”
Sophomore running back Tyree Carlisle, who has seen a lot of playing time the past two games with Jackson Davis unable to go because injury, had a big night.
Carlisle had a pair of touchdown runs in the first half.
Carlisle’s 2-yard scoring run got the Tigers on the board with 2:34 left in the first quarter.
In the second quarter, Carlisle had an impressive 11-yard scoring run where he managed to break away from three would-be tacklers.
In the third quarter, Wreyford made a 37-yard field goal to cut Cedartown’s lead to four, and Camren Russell had a 2-yard touchdown run to give Troup a lead it wouldn’t relinquish.
Thanks to a fumble on the kickoff at the start of the third quarter and a short Cedartown punt, Troup only had to cover 41 yards on its two scoring drives in the second half.
After Russell’s touchdown the Tigers didn’t score again, but thanks to the effort of the defense, they didn’t need to.
Cedartown hung tough and nearly came away with a big road win, but Troup found a way.
“They came to play, and they were tough,” Glisson said of the Bulldogs. “They kept battling, and they had a good game plan with what they were trying to do, and they executed it, and hats off to them.”
Reach Kevin Eckleberry at (706) 884-7311 or on Twitter @lagrangesports