Resurgent Tigers ready for playoff run
LAGRANGE – A year ago this time, the Troup Tigers were licking their wounds on the heels of a 1-9 season.
Now, the Tigers are getting ready to host a first-round playoff game after putting the wraps on a stellar 8-2 regular season.
Troup finished second in Region 5-AAAA to earn the right to host a playoff game, and its opponent will be West Hall, the third-place team from Region 7-AAAA.
It’s a challenging game.
The Spartans have faced a difficult schedule, and they’ll bring a 6-4 record into today’s game at Callaway Stadium, with kickoff set for 7:30 p.m.
West Hall’s opponent will be a Troup team that has enjoyed a stunning turnaround from a year ago.
The Tigers at one point won eight consecutive games, and that included a road win over a Sandy Creek team that at the time was ranked fourth in the state.
Troup finished the regular season with a loss to Cartersville last week in the region-championship game, but it has still been a special season for head coach Tanner Glisson’s team.
Now, the Tigers will try to win a playoff game, something a Troup football team has only done once since 2003.
In 2011, Charles Flowers’ final season as head coach, Troup went 9-3 and won a first-round win over Cedar Grove.
“We’re excited,” Troup head coach Tanner Glisson said. “We’ve won one playoff game here in 13 years. So, you go from where we were last year to possibly winning a playoff game, and getting to nine wins. If we get to nine wins, there are only three teams in Troup history that have more wins. There were three 11-win teams. So that’s pretty good.”
The season began with a 21-14 loss to Hardaway, but Troup then ripped off eight consecutive wins before running into a Cartersville buzzsaw.
As the wins mounted, so did the team’s confidence, although Troup is coming off a blowout loss to Cartersville.
“That kind of humbled us a little bit Friday night, and hopefully our kids can come back in and focus on the small things,” Glisson said. “It’d been a while since we lost a game. So now, we get the taste of what it feels like to get humbled a little bit. So we’ll take our medicine and move on. I told the kids, we are not going to discuss it after Friday. You have to move on.”
Despite the disappointment of the Cartersville game, the season so far has been an unqualified success for Troup, especially considering how last year went.
Troup has some impressive wins on its schedule, including Sandy Creek, Chapel Hill, Bowdon, Lamar County, teams that have qualified for the state playoffs.
“Just looking at some of the teams we’ve played this year, Bowdon is in the playoffs, and Lamar County is the number two team in Callaway’s region, so they get to host,” Glisson said. “So we’re pretty excited to be sitting where we are.”
Following a rough season, the Troup players and coaches worked hard to make sure the 2016 campaign would be a more enjoyable one.
Troup was unable to get a road win over Hardaway to begin the season, but it followed that up with a 38-12 home win over Kendrick.
Things really got rolling when Troup rallied in the fourth quarter to beat Bowdon 28-27, a victory that signified how far the program had come.
Troup then got an impressive 47-28 road win over Lamar County to complete its non-region schedule.
Troup opened region play with a 42-21 home win over Chapel Hill, setting up a showdown with Sandy Creek.
It was tied 14-14 at the half, and Troup dominated the final two quarters to win 28-20.
As Glisson pointed out after that game, there was nothing flukish about the win.
“Sometimes you can go steal one, and it was a fluke, or a flash in the pan,” Glisson said. “But we really felt like we were the better football team, especially in the second half. It was 14-14 at the half. The first half could have went either way. They left some plays out on the table. We left some plays out on the table. The second half, we brought it to them a little bit. Our defense really played well. They didn’t score in the second half until there was a minute and a half left in the game.”
Troup then got a 37-26 win over rival LaGrange before beating Cedartown 23-20 and Central-Carroll 41-0 to secure a top two finish in the region.
“We do it as a family,” said Kevin Martin, a sophomore linebacker. “Everybody on the team is family. From the coaches to the water boy, we couldn’t do it without everybody.”
One of the team’s seniors, Chanse Hill, said the disappointment of the 2015 season provided plenty of motivation for the players.
“The season last year drives us,” Hill said. “We don’t ever want to feel that again. It drives us to win.”
Troup gets it done with an explosive offense, a defense that has been at its best late in games, and a tremendous special-teams unit led by junior kicker Carson Wreyford.
As for West Hall, it has thrived away from home this season.
The Spartans are 4-1 in road games, with their only loss away from home coming in the regular-season finale against Blessed Trinity.
Jacob Satterfield, who threw for 270 yards with two touchdown passes to Justin Hearn against Blessed Trinity, headlines West Hall’s offense.
West Hall has reached the state playoffs four straight years for the first time in school history, and Satterfield is part of the senior class that helped make that a reality.
Reach Kevin Eckleberry at (706) 884-7311 or on Twitter @lagrangesports