Tigers ready for title showdown
LAGRANGE – It’s a huge game, but it’s not the final one.
That’s one of the messages Troup High head coach Tanner Glisson has tried to get across to his players during practice this week leading up to tonight’s showdown with Cartersville for the Region 5-AAAA championship.
If Troup wins, it will be the region champion and it will be at home next week for the first round of the state playoffs.
If Troup loses, it will also be at Callaway Stadium next week for a playoff game.
So regardless of the outcome of tonight’s game, Troup will have to turn the page and prepare for a state playoff game in a week.
Troup (8-1) and Cartersville (9-0) both bring 5-0 region records into today’s game.
“The deal is, it would be great to win a region championship,” said Glisson, Troup’s second-year head coach. “No doubt about that. It would be wonderful. But, even if you do, the very next week we’ve got to go play. That’s the big one. You could win region and go home in the first round. Or, we could lose, and go on and win. Regardless, we’ve got to get ready to play that very next week. That’s crucial.”
For the moment, of course, everyone associated with Troup’s football team is focused on Cartersville.
If Troup can go on the road and beat the state’s top-ranked team, it would give the football program its first region title since 1986.
It’s a game that is receiving plenty of attention beyond the Troup County borders.
It will, in fact, be the game of the week for two different Atlanta television stations, so there will be cameras all over the sidelines at Weinman Stadium.
“It’s a great opportunity,” said Glisson, who is trying to lead Troup to its first region title in 30 years. “We’re pumped about it. It’s been a long time for Troup.”
No matter how much attention will be focused on the two teams tonight, though, it is still just a football game.
Troup will look to continue to do what it has done throughout the duration of its eight-game winning streak.
“We’ve just got to come out ready to execute,” said senior wide receiver and defensive back Ken Truitt.
Troup is trying to do what no team has been able to do over the past two years, and that’s beat Cartersville.
Cartersville went 15-0 and won a state championship a year ago, and it hasn’t let up a bit this season.
Cartersville has one of the country’s top players in junior quarterback Trevor Lawrence, but he’s just a part of the equation.
Cartersville has a vicious defense that has given up just 71 points, and its offense has been scoring at will with Lawrence hurling the ball all over the field.
The 6-foot-6 Lawrence is being recruited by every big-time program in the country, and he’ll be at LSU on Saturday night for the Alabama game.
Opposing Cartersville is a team that has compiled an impressive resume of its own.
Troup dropped its first game of the season to Hardaway, but it hasn’t lost since.
Troup has its own outstanding junior quarterback in Montez Crowe, and he has thrown 16 touchdown passes, including seven to Kobe Hudson.
Troup has also been effective running the ball, with senior Camren Russell leading the way in that department.
“We have the balance,” senior wide receiver Chanse Hill said. “If we need to throw, we can make that play, and catch them off guard.”
Troup’s defense, and this is a testament to defensive coordinator Micah Alba and the other coaches, has been at its best late in games.
Even in games where the Tigers were giving up a lot of yards, the defense has found a way to make stops at the most critical times.
That’s especially impressive since more than half of the starters on defense are freshmen or sophomores.
At the close of a practice session this week, Glisson met with the players and asked them a question.
“I said raise your hand if you’re a sophomore on defense,” Glisson said. “About six of them raised their hand. And Kobe (Hudson) didn’t raise his, because he’s a freshman.”
One of Troup’s greatest strengths is its special-teams play, and junior Carson Wreyford is having a stellar season both as a place kicker and a punter, and he could play a key role if it’s a close game.
Reach Kevin Eckleberry at (706) 884-7311 or on Twitter @lagrangesports