Tigers find way against Hawks
By Kevin Eckleberry
LAGRANGE – The Troup Tigers had just scored a touchdown to go up 31-28, but that lead was hardly safe considering how well the Hardaway Hawks had been moving the ball in the second half.
On back-to-back drives in the second half, the Hawks had driven for touchdowns, and the Tigers looked gassed on defense.
After the second of those two touchdowns, Troup drove for a score of its own to take the three-point lead, but there were more than six minutes remaining.
Could Troup’s defense step up and make a play?
Yes, it could.
Troup’s outstanding junior defensive lineman, King Mwikuta, made a big sack on third down to force Hardaway to punt.
After the punt, the Tigers were able to run out the clock and preserve the 31-28 victory and open the season with a win.
“We just took it a play at a time,” Mwikuta said. “Everybody was just hyped up. We had to calm down. We just thank God. Take pride, and have integrity, and be a man of God.”
As the Tigers returned to the practice field this week, part of the focus was on tightening things up on the defensive side of the ball.
“We’ve got to work on tackling, filling the gaps,” said senior defensive back Macenta Stafford, who had eight tackles. “There’s a lot of stuff we’ve got to improve on.”
Troup head coach Tanner Glisson felt the defense wore down a bit in the second half against a strong Hardaway offense that features an imposing power running game.
“Coming out of halftime, I thought we had a grip on it,” Glisson said. “We had made some good adjustments at halftime. What got us in the second half was fatigue, and we didn’t account for that. When we came out, we were stopping them, and then we started getting tired, and we had a guy cramp, and then another guy cramp. And those guys leaning on you all night was tough.”
One of Troup’s defensive standouts was linebacker Joko Willis, who had six solo tackles and six assists with a forced fumble.
Detrick Tucker tied Stafford for the team lead with seven solo tackles, and he also had two assists.
Linebacker Nick Ligon had six solo tackles with three assists with a sack, and linebacker Kevin Martin had five solo tackles and two assists with a forced fumble.
Mwikuta led the way among the defensive linemen with three solo tackles and two assists, and he had three critical sacks and a forced fumble.
Defensive lineman Andy Boykin contributed three solo tackles and two assists, and Jabralin Gooden and Kaliff Thornton each had a pair of tackles.
In the secondary, Alonzo Ogletree had four tackles.
While Troup’s defense had its issues, the offense put up huge numbers with quarterback Montez Crowe setting a school record with 415 yards and three touchdown passes, including the game-winner to Jamari Thrash in the fourth quarter.
Crowe also threw two touchdown passes to Kobe Hudson, and Tyree Carlisle had a scoring run, and Carson Wreyford made a field goal.
Marc-Anthony Dixon also had a big catch in coverage in the fourth quarter that led to the go-ahead touchdown.
“It was a lot of fun tonight,” Dixon said. “I give all props to the line, to the team, and to the quarterback.”
Troup faces Kendrick on Saturday at 11 a.m. at Kinnett Stadium in Columbus.