Troup, Cartersville offenses continue to excel
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
When the Cartersville Purple Hurricanes and Troup Tigers played for the region title a year ago, they were led by veteran quarterbacks who were among the best in the state at the position.
Cartersville quarterback Trevor Lawrence was in his fourth season as a starter and was in the process of setting numerous state records.
Troup’s Montez Crowe was a two-year starter, and he was in the midst of one of the best seasons in the history of the state.
When the season for both of those teams ended in the second round of the state playoffs, it marked the end of the road for Lawrence and Crowe.
Both men signed football scholarships, and Lawrence is the starter for a Clemson team that is unbeaten and ranked second in the country.
As Troup and Cartersville embarked on a new season, the most pressing question revolved around the quarterback position.
Would those two offenses, which were among the state’s most explosive in the state a year ago, continue to make opposing defenses look helpless?
Considering the Tigers and Purple Hurricanes are both unbeaten and averaging 40 points per game, the answer to that question is a resounding yes.
For Troup, junior Kobe Hudson has started every game, and he’s been phenomenal, beating defenses with his throwing arm, as well as his legs.
Junior Tee Webb has replaced Lawrence at Cartersville, and while his numbers don’t quite stack up to his predecessor’s, he has been terrific as well.
Hudson was a big part of Troup’s offense the past two seasons, albeit as a wide receiver.
When Troup’s coaches began laying out the plan for the new season, they decided that Hudson was the best man to take over for Crowe.
That decision has paid major dividends.
Hudson has thrown for 2,467 yards with 25 touchdowns, and he has also run for 772 yards with 11 touchdowns.
Hudson has at least one touchdown run and one scoring pass in every game this season.
“Montez broke all the Troup passing records. He left here as the all-time passing leader in Troup history,” Troup head coach Tanner Glisson said. “To be as efficient as we are, and to be sitting in the position he has put us in, number one hats off to (Hudson), and secondly you have to take a hard look at our quarterback coach, coach (Paul) Brewer, and our offensive coordinator Kelby Holt, and you’re only as good as your offensive line, and your receivers, and the people around you.”
Hudson is surrounded by gifted play-makers who can score from anywhere on the field.
Troup’s wide receivers have combined for 105 catches and 24 touchdowns, and Hudson and running backs Tyree Carlisle and Trey Williams have 1,727 rushing yards and 22 touchdowns between them.
Glisson, who works with the defense during practice, knows how dynamic that offense is.
“Me having my hand in the defense, we got against it every day. It’s not fun,” Glisson said. “When that thing is clicking, and when (Hudson is) spreading it around, it’s really dangerous. And the big deal is, our offensive line is a veteran offensive line, and they’re strong, and they’re working together, and they’re a blue-collar group. When you have that and you can surround them with the number of weapons we have, then you have a good opportunity.”
Troup’s leading receiver this season is a senior who was a defensive starter the past two years.
Joko Willis made the move from linebacker to wide receiver for his senior season, and he’s tops on the team with 28 catches for 545 yards and six touchdowns.
“When I first came in, I didn’t think I’d make a big impact,” Willis said. “But when the season started rolling, it just kept coming more and more to me.”
Hudson remembers Willis working with the offense in past years, so it wasn’t an entirely new experience for him when he made the transition.
“When we were in practice, he was always like coach let me run a route,” Hudson said. “He just kept running routes, and he was pretty good at it.”
Jamari Thrash was Troup’s leading receiver the past two seasons, and he’s having a big senior year.
Thrash has 25 catches for 615 yards, and he leads the team with nine touchdowns.
During the past two years, Thrash has 86 catches and 30 touchdowns.
Junior Ja’Rell Smith has provided a big-play presence with 23 catches for 539 yards and four touchdowns.
Sophomore Trea Mitchell has 15 receptions for 256 yards and two touchdowns in five games, and junior Mark-Anthony Dixon has 14 catches for 208 yards and three touchdowns.
Carlisle has 14 catches for 209 yards and a touchdown out of the backfield, and Williams has eight receptions for 105 yards.
The man delivering the ball is Hudson, who has been unstoppable. He has completed 109-of-204 passes for 2,467 yards and 25 touchdowns, and he has a team-leading 772 rushing yards on 81 attempts with 11 touchdowns.
While Hudson has shown the ability to stand in the pocket and deliver strikes, he also has the ability to take off and run and make something out of nothing.
“He was a great receiver,” Willis said of Hudson. “But when he moved to quarterback, we were ready for it. He’s just producing more and more.”
While Troup is an explosive passing team, it has been effective on the ground as well.
Hudson is tops on the team with his 772 rushing yards, and Williams is next with 575 yards on 116 attempts with four touchdowns.
Carlisle has 60 carries for 380 yards, an impressive average of 6.3 yards per carry, and he has seven touchdowns.
Leading the way is a veteran offensive line that has been superb.
That group includes Gabe Hubbard, Steven Messer, Colby Harry, Jay Brodie Messer, Will Cooley, Hunter Bass, Michael Irvin, Tyler Kitchens and Riley Bowles.
“We’re not blessed with 6-4 guys up there,” Glisson said. “Gabe Hubbard is probably the only one that looks like a college offensive lineman. The others are gritty, they’re good technicians at what they do. They work extremely hard in the weight room, and they’re high-character kids. And you can trust them. To me, that’s the biggest thing.”
For Cartersville, while Webb is in his first season as a starter, he got plenty of playing time a year ago.
Since the Purple Hurricanes won most of their games in blowout fashion, it gave Webb an opportunity to play a lot.
Webb has looked comfortable under center this season, completing 117-of 197 passes for more than 1,800 yards and 23 touchdowns with just four interceptions.
Six different Cartersville players are in double digits in receptions, and Webb has thrown touchdown passes to 10 receivers.
In a 51-0 victory over Chapel Hill, Webb threw two touchdown passes to Devonte Ross, and one to Marquial Coaxum.
Senior Marcus Gary headlines the running game with more than 600 yards and nine touchdowns, and he also has three scoring catches.
The Purple Hurricanes have had a few games where the offense was held in check somewhat.
Cartersville needed a late touchdown to beat Cedartown 21-20, and it scored with moments left in the game to outlast Sandy Creek 7-0.
Despite that, Cartersville is scoring 40 points per game, and it was unstoppable against a Chapel Hill team that has a chance to make the playoffs.
During a 45-7 win over LaGrange, Webb threw touchdown passes to five different players, and eight players had at least 20 receiving yards.
OF NOTE: For a look at the Troup and Cartersville defenses, see Thursday’s sports section.