Unbeaten Tigers take big step
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
They were pushed, but when the dust cleared and the clock hit zero, the Troup Tigers were still unbeaten.
Troup took the lead on a touchdown pass from Kobe Hudson to Joko Willis early in the fourth quarter, and it held on for a 20-13 victory over a talented Cedartown team on Friday night at Callaway Stadium.
It was a critical win for Troup (8-0 overall), which improved to 4-0 in Region 5-AAAA and guaranteed itself at least a second-place finish in the region.
Troup visits Central-Carroll next Friday before closing the regular season with a championship-showdown at Cartersville on Nov. 2.
“Last year, or the year before, we lose that football game,” Troup head coach Tanner Glisson said. “We had some guts. I said it all week, this team we have has guts, they’re tough. We took their best shot, and we live to see another day at 8-0.”
Troup survived for a 23-20 win over Cedartown in 2016, and it lost last year’s game 21-18.
The rematch figured to be another hotly-contested game, and it was.
Cedartown tied it with a touchdown late in the third quarter, and Troup came right back with a 75-yard scoring drive to reclaim the lead.
Hudson capped the drive with a 17-yard touchdown pass to Willis, who went up high to make the catch.
“We knew it was going to be a four-quarter game,” Willis said. “We just worked hard, and kept our minds straight.”
Hudson, who was a wide receiver for the previous two games against Cedartown, said “we knew it was going to be a hard-fought game. If they won, they could have won the region championship. There was a lot on the line.”
Cedartown struck first, with Kobe Pryor taking off on a 49-yard touchdown run midway through the second quarter, and the lead was 6-0 following a failed extra-point attempt.
The Tigers answered with a touchdown of their own with less than a minute left in the half.
Hudson capped the 63-yard scoring drive with a 7-yard touchdown run, and the Helsyn Martinez extra point gave Troup a 7-6 lead, and that was the score at the half.
The Tigers padded their lead with a 50-yard touchdown drive on their second possession of the second half.
On third-and-long, Hudson scrambled and found Ja’Rell Smith for a 23-yard completion to the 8-yard line.
Two plays later, Hudson’s 10-yard scoring run gave Troup a 13-6 lead with 3:46 to play in the third quarter.
It took Cedartown barely two minutes to tie it, with Pryor scoring on a 22-yard run, and with the extra point the game was deadlocked at 13-13 with 2:35 left in the quarter.
Back came the Tigers, who went 75 yards in 11 plays for what turned out to be the game-winning touchdown.
The Tigers were on their own 27 when Hudson tossed a 27-yard completion to Smith on third down to keep the drive alive.
A few plays later, Hudson rolled to his right and lofted a pass to Willis for the 17-yard touchdown.
Willis had a defender on him, but he went up high and snatched the ball out of the air.
“We’ve been working on that all week long, jump ball, jump ball,” Willis said. “You just have to go get it. I did.”
The Bulldogs weren’t done.
On its final possession, Cedartown made it to the Troup 17-yard line on an 18-yard run by Tony Mathis.
Troup’s defense was up to the challenge.
On third down, Andy Boykin and King Mwikuta teamed up for a sack, and it was fourth-and-12 for Cedartown.
An incomplete pass by Taji Hudson ended that scoring threat, and Troup had the ball with a chance to salt the game away.
Hudson had first-down runs of 15 and 14 yards, and Troup was able to run out the clock.