Troup flies high in playoff win

Published 11:56 pm Sunday, November 12, 2017

By Kevin Eckleberry

RINGGOLD – A breakthrough 2016 season ended in disappointing fashion for the Troup Tigers.

After a one-win season in 2015, the Tigers improved their victory total by eight games last year and finished 8-3, but their season ended with a loss in the first round of the state playoffs to West Hall.

Troup, after another 8-2 regular season, was determined not to let things end in a similar fashion this year.

Facing a strong Heritage-Catoosa team Friday night, Troup delivered a dominant all-around performance on the way to a 31-7 victory in the opening round of the Class AAAA state playoffs.

Troup is now one of 16 teams left standing in Class AAAA, and it will visit St. Pius X on Friday night with a berth in the quarterfinals on the line.

“You hope we’ve arrived in three years to expect to win in the playoffs,” said Tanner Glisson, who is in his third season as Troup’s head coach. “That’s what you hope for. Until you actually do it, a lot of people can talk about it, but it’s hard to win those playoff games. For us to be able to go up there, and kind of redeem ourselves from last year with West Hall, that was good.”

It was a tight game for much of the first half.

Two high-powered offenses had combined for just three points late in the first half when Montez Crowe hit Jamari Thrash for a 49-yard touchdown with less than a minute remaining in the second quarter.

Leading 10-0, the Tigers broke it open in the third quarter with three touchdowns to take a 31-0 lead.

Thrash, who has had a monster junior season, had a back-breaking 91-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter, and Mark-Anthony Dixon had a 65-yard scoring reception.

Trey Williams added a 1-yard touchdown run during the third quarter.

Heritage, which had been averaging more than 40 points per game, scored its only points late in the third quarter after Troup fumbled on its own 10-yard line.

While Troup’s offense continued to produce big plays as it has all season, the defense nearly delivered a shutout.

“The defense played very, very well,” Glisson said. “We were very pleased with how we played. There’s even room for even more improvement. But I feel like our defense is hitting their stride pretty good right now. I feel their best football is getting close.”

Glisson credited the defensive coaches for making adjustments as the game went along.

The defense set up two of Troup’s touchdowns in interceptions by Devon Hill and Kobe Hudson.

“During the first quarter, offensively and defensively, I think both teams were trying to feel each other out,” Glisson said. “We expected them to come in and try to be run heavy, so we were in a run package on defense. And we ended up stopping the run pretty good, and they ended up almost exclusively going to the air. We came back out in the second half and went to a nickel defense that we have and shut down some of their schemes that they were doing. We were going to try to make them drive the length of the field to get back in the game. So I felt like our defensive coaches did a great job.”

Offensively, it was more of the same for the Tigers, who have been one of the state’s best when it comes to delivering explosive plays.

A lot of those big plays have been provided by Thrash, who now has 15 touchdown catches in 11 games.

Thrash, a junior, had three catches for 150 yards with two touchdowns against Heritage.

Hudson had a big all-around game.

The sophomore had four catches for 86 yards, and he also had an interception in the third quarter that led to a touchdown.

Dixon, a part of Troup’s dynamic wide-receiver unit, had four catches for 118 yards.

Crowe, who has had such a sensational senior season, completed 11-of-25 passes for 354 yards and three touchdowns.

Williams and Tyree Carlisle both ran for 27 yards.

“It was a good win to get that monkey off your back, and to go to a 9-1 team at their place in a hostile environment, it was good for us,” Glisson said.

In the first quarter, Heritage had a pair of drives into Troup territory.

One of those drives ended with an incomplete pass in the end zone, and the other one ended with a sack on fourth down.

In the second quarter, the game’s first score was set up by some special-teams trickery.

Troup faked a punt, and Hudson completed a pass to Thrash to put the ball in Heritage territory.

That led to a 27-yard field goal by Carson Wreyford, and Troup led 3-0 with seven minutes left in the first half.

“We did a little trick play with Kobe throwing it to Thrash, and that got us down there for that first field goal, so that was big as well,” Glisson said. “So special teams was good, too.”

Later in the half, Hill came through with an interception to give the Tigers the ball near midfield.

Troup stayed true to its aggressive form, with offensive coordinator Kelby Holt calling for the deep ball.

“It started with Devon Hill, a sophomore, who got an interception right there,” Glisson said. “He intercepted the ball and gave it back to our offense, and coach Holt wanted to take a shot, and I told him to go ahead. Montez had a good scramble, and Jamari got behind the defense and we got some momentum going into the half.”

Heritage got the ball first in the second half, but it had to punt, and Troup took over at its own 11.

After a 2-yard loss on first down, Thrash struck again.

Crowe completed a short pass to Thrash, and he beat the Heritage defense for the 91-yard touchdown.

Troup led 17-0 following the Wreyford extra point.

It got worse moments later for the Generals when Hudson picked off a Luke Grant pass, and the Tigers were in business again.

The Tigers covered the 26 yards in six plays, with Williams plunging into the end zone from one yard out.

Troup’s defense made another stop to force a punt, and Crowe’s 65-yard touchdown pass to Dixon and Wreyford’s fourth extra point made it a 31-0 game.

A Troup fumble late in the third quarter gave Heritage the ball at the 10-yard line, and that led to a C.J. Shackleford touchdown run.

Heritage recovered the onside kick, but Troup’s defense was up to the challenge once again.

“We dropped some balls in the first half where we could have run away with it early,” Glisson said. “But we’re sitting there at 31-0 with 15 seconds left to go in the third quarter, so you can’t get too upset about that.”

Troup, which finished third in Region 5-AAAA, will visit Region 8-AAAA champion St. Pius this week.

St. Pius (6-5) beat West Hall 44-31 in the first round to advance.