Memorable night for Tigers

Published 2:35 pm Monday, October 2, 2017

By Kevin Eckleberry

LAGRANGE – What a night.

The Troup Tigers felt they’d prepared well during the week leading up to Friday’s Region 5-AAAA showdown against Sandy Creek, and they were confident.

Still, they were facing a strong Sandy Creek team that was 3-1 and was powered by a defense that was giving up less than 10 points per game.

Could the Tigers, who were averaging more than 40 points per game, keep it going against the Patriots?

The Tigers not only kept it going, they put on a staggering, epic offensive show with quarterback Montez Crowe delivering one of the best performances in state history.

The final score told the story.

Behind Crowe’s eight touchdown passes, Troup overwhelmed Sandy Creek 71-16.

Troup (6-0) improved to 2-0 in the region, and it will be off next week before taking on LaGrange on Oct. 6.

“I hope they enjoy it,” Troup head coach Tanner Glisson said. “We’re 6-0, and we’ll keep working

Crowe, who had a 500-yard passing night, may not have expected a 70-point explosion, but he felt the Tigers were going to do something big.

“I kind of knew during the week,” Crowe said. “Our guys seemed focused, and the communication got better day by day, and I knew it was going to be special week.”

Sandy Creek gave up 38 points combined in its first four games, and Troup had more than that by halftime.

The first 12 times they had the ball, the Tigers scored 10 touchdowns, and the other two possessions ended with interceptions.

Sandy Creek did force Troup into a punting situation once, but a roughing-the-kicker penalty kept that drive alive.

Whatever the Tigers wanted to do offensively, they did, and the Patriots were powerless to stop them.

“It feels good,” said sophomore wide receiver Kobe Hudson, who had four touchdown catches. “We worked hard, and it paid off. And we’ll get back to work.”

Crowe’s numbers were astonishing.

Crowe completed 20-of-29 passes for 525 yards with eight touchdowns.

Those eight touchdowns, by the way, were the second most in a single game in state history.

Ed Staten, way back in 1962, threw nine touchdowns in a game while playing for North Whitfield.

Crowe joins Charlton County’s Jeremy Privett (2003) and Lassiter’s Huston Mason (2009) as the only players in state history to throw eight touchdowns in a game.

Crowe averaged 26 yards every completion, and he completed passes to six different receivers.

Hudson, who was fighting an injury earlier in the season, was at full speed on Friday night, and he was brilliant.

Hudson caught six passes for a remarkable 239 yards with four touchdowns.

“When I’m 100 percent, and everybody’s 100 percent, we’re hard to stop for anybody,” Hudson said.

Jamari Thrash, who has thrived in his first season at Troup after transferring from LaGrange, had five catches for 86 yards with a touchdown.

Tight end Kenly Bridwell had four catches for 78 yards with a touchdown, and Mark-Anthony Dixon had two receptions for 50 yards with a score.

Ja’Rell Smith had one catch, and it went 44 yards for a touchdown, and running back Tyree Carlisle had one reception for eight yards.

While the Tigers did most of their damage through the air, Carlisle carried the ball 11 times for 35 yards, and he and Trey Williams each had a touchdown run.

Troup’s leading rusher was Crowe, who ran six times for 39 yards.

Not be overlooked was an offensive line that made sure Crowe would have a comfortable pocket where he could pick the Sandy Creek defense apart.

That group includes Seth Adams, Hunter Bass, Colby Harry, Jay Brodie Messer, Gabe Hubbard and Michael Irvin.

Adams, Troup’s senior center, said nights like Friday’s make “everything worthwhile. It makes those hot days during the week worth it.”

The centerpiece of the Troup offense is Crowe, and he has been masterful all season.

Crowe made his first varsity start in the final game of the 2015 season, and he led Troup to a win over Whitewater.

Last year, Crowe started every game, and he had a fine season while helping the Tigers go 8-3.

As a senior, Crowe has taken his game to astronomical levels.

He has completed 102-of-152 passes for 2,205 yards with 24 touchdowns, and three times in six games he has thrown for 400 yards or more.

No one in the state has thrown for more yards than Crowe, and he has a healthy lead over the man in second place.

Scarily, at least as far as opposing defenses are concerned, Crowe feels the offense can get even better.

“The best thing about it is, I don’t even think this is our best game,” Crowe said. “We know we’re good, and as long as we communicate and execute what we’ve got to do, we’ll do our best.”

In the Sandy Creek game, Crowe’s night started with an incompletion, but that was obviously not a sign of things to come.

After a pass-interference penalty, Crowe threw a screen pass to Dixon, who used his sprinter’s speed to race down the left sideline for a 55-yard touchdown.

On Troup’s second possession, Crowe threw an interception, but King Mwikuta recovered a Sandy Creek fumble.

Four plays later, Crowe threw a 33-yard touchdown pass to Hudson, and Thrash had a 19-yard catch earlier on the drive.

Sandy Creek answered with a touchdown, and Troup’s lead was down to 14-7 with 3:28 left in the first quarter.

Problem was, Sandy Creek’s defense had to go back on the field.

Hudson busted off a long kickoff return to the Sandy Creek 29-yard line.

Three plays later on third down, Hudson caught a 25-yard scoring pass from Crowe.

The onslaught continued in the second quarter.

After Crowe completed a pair of passes to get Troup deep in Sandy Creek territory, Carlisle scored on a 3-yard touchdown run.

It got worse moments later for Sandy Creek when its punter was tackled in the end zone for a safety, and Troup led 29-7.

Sandy Creek appeared to catch a break when Troup fumbled the ensuing free kick, but it was only able to get a field goal.

Crowe then threw his second interception, but Troup’s defense stood tall and forced a field-goal attempt, which was missed.

Senior MaCenta Stafford had a big pass break-up on third down.

Troup carved up Sandy Creek’s defense, going 80 yards for the touchdown, and it was all Crowe.

He was 4-of-4 on the drive, and that included a 14-yard touchdown pass to Thrash on a jump ball in the end zone.

Also on that drive, Crowe showed off his athletic ability when he was flushed out of the pocket and completed a 23-yard pass to Bridwell on the run, and he had a 21-yard run.

After a Sandy Creek three-and-out, Troup capped the first-half scoring.

The big play on the drive was a 47-yard catch by Hudson, and Williams scored on a 1-yard run with 16 seconds left in the half to make it a 43-10 game.

The 20-minute halftime break did nothing to slow the Tigers.

On the second play from scrimmage in the second half, Hudson struck again, catching a slant pass from Crowe and going the distance for a 65-yard touchdown.

After a fumble, Hudson continued to torch the Sandy Creek defense, this time for a 39-yard scoring pass, and it was a 57-10 game with 10:02 still to play in the third quarter.

The Patriots showed some life and scored a touchdown, and they appeared to have made a defensive stop after sacking Crowe on third down.

A roughing penalty on the punter meant the Tigers were going to keep the ball, though, and they scored another touchdown on a 44-yard pass from Crowe to Smith.

After that, Andy Boykin made a tackle for loss to force a punt, and Troup scored the game’s final touchdown on a 5-yard pass from Crowe to Bridwell moments into the fourth quarter.

Troup has four regular-season games remaining, including what could be an epic matchup with Cartersville on Nov. 3.

Conceivably, both teams could bring a 9-0 record into what would be a region-championship game.

Before then, Troup still has to play LaGrange, Cedartown and Central-Carroll.

“We just had a good game, and we’ve got to keep working,” Bridwell said. “This doesn’t mean anything yet.”