Seniors help lead Troup defense

Published 11:35 pm Wednesday, November 15, 2017

By Kevin Eckleberry

He just wants to help the team.

Whether he’s playing linebacker, or defensive back, the only concern for Troup’s MaCenta Stafford is finding a way to help his team prevail on game night.

“I really don’t care,” Stafford said. “Whatever it takes to win, that’s all I care about.”

Stafford is one of three seniors in the starting lineup for a Troup defense that is coming off a dominant performance against Heritage-Catoosa in the opening round of the Class AAAA state playoffs.

Heritage averaged more than 40 points per game in the regular season, but it was shut down by Troup in the 31-7 loss.

Heritage’s only touchdown came on the final play of the third quarter when it got the ball at the 10-yard line following a Troup fumble.

Troup led 31-0 at that point, and the outcome had long since been decided.

Stafford did his part from his defensive-back position, while fellow seniors Tionne Battle and Detrick Tucker also excelled.

Battle is a defensive lineman, while Tucker is an outside linebacker.

The three seniors have helped Troup limit opponents to 15 points per game, and the defense is coming off its most impressive performance of the season.

Heritage had some offensive success early on, but as the game progressed, Troup’s defense took over.

“We just did our job and played together as a team,” Battle said.

Shutting down Heritage’s offense was no small feat considering how easily it had been scoring points throughout the season.

“The defense played very, very well,” said Troup head coach Tanner Glisson. “We’ve very pleased with how we played, and there’s even room for more improvement. I feel like our defense is hitting our stride pretty good right now. I think their best football is getting close.”

Stafford, who has settled in at the defensive-back position after playing linebacker for much of the season, echoed his coach’s sentiments.

“In my mind, we haven’t played our best game,” Stafford said. “I think we’ve still got some improvement to make on defense.”

Stafford said it’s a team effort on defense, and that includes the scout-team players who help the starters get ready.

“I credit the scout team, because they did a great job,” Stafford said. “They helped us a lot through the whole season.”

Glisson seconded that, offering high praise for the scout-team players, who are mostly freshmen.

“Our freshman scout people have done a tremendous job,” Glisson said. “We’ve gotten better because our scout team have gotten better. They have done a great job. We came in Sunday night and prepped them, and they’ve really done a great job.”

While Stafford helps hold things down in the defensive backfield, Tucker is a play-maker at the outside linebacker position.

Tucker finished the regular season with 54 tackles, most among the outside linebackers.

Like Stafford, Tucker isn’t concerned with individual accolades.

“I try to work hard every day,” Tucker said. “It’s more like a team thing. We’re all together.”

Tucker transferred to Troup from Harris County before the 2016 season, and he was a part of a team that went 8-3 and finished second in Region 5-AAAA.

He has helped the Tigers reach the second round of the state playoffs for the second time since 2003.

“It was great for me,” Tucker said of his move to Troup. “I just got here last year. I came from Harris County. So I got here with a new team, getting to know new people. They welcomed me. We all got along when I first got here.”

While Troup’s offense has been dynamic all season, the defense has more than carried its weight.

It’s a defense that has improved dramatically as the season has gone along, leading up to last week’s lights-out performance against Heritage.

“We just did our job and played together as a team,” Battle said. “It just feels great to see our growth, and how far we’ve come.”

Tucker said it’s a defense filled with players who don’t shy away from contact.

“We’ve got some true hitters on our team,” he said.

The team that scored the most points against Troup was Cartersville, which notched six offensive touchdowns in a 52-13 win.

Despite that lop-sided score, though, that game actually served as a confidence-booster for the defense.

Trevor Lawrence, Cartersville’s Clemson-bound quarterback, had his worst game of the season with season lows in passing yards, completion percentage, and touchdowns.

“We figured out we could compete with someone at that level,” Tucker said.

Troup’s opponent this week, St. Pius X, presents another challenge for Troup’s defense.

It’s an option-based offense that chews up huge chunks of yardage on the ground.

In last week’s 44-31 win over West Hall, St. Pius ran for 344 yards while passing the ball just four times.

“We’re trying not to slow our guys down too much because we’ve got good team speed, but you have to play assignment football,” Glisson said. “So we’ll see how that works.”

OF NOTE: For a preview of the Troup and St. Pius X game, see Friday’s sports section.