Teams find different ways to end zone

Published 2:29 pm Wednesday, November 15, 2017

By Kevin Eckleberry

It’ll be a battle of contrasting styles.

While the Troup Tigers boast one of the state’s most prolific passing attacks led by senior Montez Crowe, St. Pius X features an offense that is almost exclusively ground-based.

In the first round of the Class AAAA state playoffs last week, St. Pius only passed four times.

The Golden Lions, who run an option attack, pounded out 344 rushing yards on 48 carries in a 44-31 victory over West Hall.

For Troup, as has been the case throughout the season, the offense revolves around Crowe and a talented group of wide receivers.

Crowe threw for 369 yards and three touchdowns in a 31-7 win over Heritage-Catoosa, and the team ran for 71 yards on 28 attempts.

St. Pius started slowly against West Hall and trailed 3-0 after the first quarter, but once the run game got into gear it was lights out.

St. Pius scored six touchdowns in the second through fourth quarters combined, and West Hall notched a pair of late touchdowns to make the final score more respectable.

Quarterback Connor Egan headlines the St. Pius offense, and he threw a 29-yard touchdown pass to Michael Benefield in addition to what he did on the ground.

Jason Jones ran for 104 yards, Samuel Schwaner had two touchdown runs, and Scott Braswell, Jacob Pajer and Benefield each had a scoring run.

MaCenta Stafford, a senior defensive back for Troup, said it’ll be important for all of the defensive players to stay disciplined.

“We just have to focus on our keys, and look at our reads,” Stafford said. “Mainly just stay with our technique.”

While St. Pius features an offense that is comfortable eating up clock and putting together long drives, Troup is all about the big play.

Against Heritage, three of Troup’s four touchdowns came on passing plays of 50 or more yards.

The longest of those plays came in the third quarter when Crowe found Jamari Thrash for a 91-yard touchdown.

Thrash also had a 50-yard scoring catch in the first half, and Mark-Anthony Dixon had a 65-yard touchdown reception in the second half.

Crowe only completed 11 passes, but he still managed to throw for 354 yards, averaging 32 yards per completion.

Thrash’s four catches covered 165 yards, Dixon also had four catches for 118 yards, and Dixon caught four balls for 118 yards.

TRICKERY: With his team needing a spark, Troup head coach Tanner Glisson decided to take a chance in the first half.

Glisson called for a fake punt, and the Tigers executed it to perfection, with Kobe Hudson throwing a 15-yard completion to Jamari Thrash.

That led to a 27-yard field goal by Carson Wreyford to give Troup a lead it wouldn’t relinquish.

“We had (the fake punt) set up against Cartersville, and they called a timeout,” Glisson said. “We always huddle the punt team on the side of the field and run them on the field. We went ahead and ran our snapper and our kicker out there, and they all huddled on me, and we ran them on the field and lined them up in the polecat. The center flips it all the way over to Kobe, and Kobe hits Thrash going down the sidelines. So we did that for a big first down.”

SLOWING THEM DOWN: While Troup’s offense was as proficient as always, the defense was a big part of the story as well in the 31-7 win over Heritage.

Heritage came into the game with one of the highest-scoring offenses in Class AAAA, but it was overpowered by Troup’s defense.

Heritage finished with fewer than 300 yards, and its lone touchdown came after it recovered a fumble at Troup 10-yard line in the third quarter.

Troup also forced two turnovers, both of which led to touchdowns.

Late in the first half, sophomore Devon Hill picked off a pass, and Crowe threw a 50-yard scoring pass to Thrash moments later to give Troup a 10-0 lead.

In the second half, Kobe Hudson had an interception, and that led to a Trey Williams 1-yard touchdown run.

By the time Heritage scored on the final play of the third quarter it was trailing 31-0, and the outcome had long since been decided.

MaCenta Stafford said the work done in the days leading up to the Heritage game made all the difference.

Stafford gives a lot of credit to the scout-team players.

“It started on Monday,” Stafford said. “We start out with the scout team, and I give them a lot of credit. They did a great job. They’ve helped us a lot through the whole season.”