Troup seniors making plays
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
For four seasons, Nick Ligon and Kevin Martin have been teammates on the Troup football team, and they’ve been defensive starters for the past three years.
On Friday night at Callaway Stadium, the two friends will share the field once again as Troup takes on Callaway in a showdown between unbeaten and ranked teams.
Martin, Callaway’s leading tackler the past two years, will be in his customary position at linebacker, and Ligon will be at strong safety.
The two seniors are part of a defense that has been dominant so far.
Including the preseason game against Northside-Columbus, Troup’s first-team defense has given up six points in four games.
When Ligon looks at the possibilities for this team, he said “I don’t think there’s a limit. I think we can go as far as we want to. It just depends on how hard we want to work.”
This week, Troup will get an opportunity to test itself against one of the state’s elite programs.
Callaway (3-0), which went 11-2 last season while making it at least as far as the state quarterfinals for the third time in four years, is ranked second in Class AA.
It’s a game with all sorts of hype and expectation, but Ligon said he and his teammates have tried to keep the routine the same this week.
“We take every game the exact same way,” Ligon said. “It’s a big game for the fans and everybody to come out and watch, but to us it’s a normal game.”
In 2015, Ligon and Martin were freshmen on a Troup team that was struggling through a 1-9 season.
One of those losses came at the hands of Callaway, with Troup falling 42-24 in the fifth game of the season.
In 2016, Martin and Ligon moved into the starting lineup, and they helped the Tigers enjoy one of the most dramatic turnarounds in the state.
After losing its season opener, Troup won eight consecutive games on the way to an 8-3 record,
Last year, Troup went 9-3, and it reached the second round of the state playoffs.
Now, the Tigers are off to an unbeaten start, and they’ve got the look of a team capable of competing for a state championship.
“If we play together, we can accomplish anything we want,” Martin said. “We just have to stay together, and play every game the same. And practice is more important than the game.”
Martin has had a lot to do with Troup’s success the past three years.
He led the Tigers in tackles as a sophomore, and he has repeated that feat the past two years.
For his part, Martin isn’t concerned with the numbers.
“It’s a team thing,” he said. “If I don’t make the tackle, I’d be happy for my brother to make the tackle. I just go with the flow.”
While Martin has enjoyed an injury-free stint as a high-school player, that hasn’t been the case for Ligon.
Ligon has endured a hamstring injury, as well as a sore knee that required surgery.
While it’s always frustrating for an athlete to have to deal with injuries, Ligon has never wavered in his desire to be on the field.
“If you really love it, you’re going to keep pushing,” Ligon said.
Ligon plays with a fearless, relentless attitude that he hopes inspires his teammates.
“I bring the aggressiveness, make everybody want to come out and play hard, play fast,” Ligon said. “I’ll do whatever it takes. I’m really trying to knock your helmet off. That’s my goal.”
Martin said a hallmark of the Troup defense is the quickness the players bring to the field.
“Everybody on our defense has a lot of speed, so that’s how our defense plays,” Martin said. “We play with speed, and everybody gets to the ball.”
It’s also a defense that has some men who’ll be playing big-time college football down the road. Three of the defensive players have offers from SEC schools, including linebacker King Mwikuta, who has committed to Alabama.
Ligon said how many offers a player has doesn’t mean anything on the practice field, though.
“Out here on this field, everybody’s equal,” Ligon said. “We don’t see none of that.”