Troup ready for showdown
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
Three years ago, the Troup Tigers were playing out the string.
In Tanner Glisson’s first year as head coach in 2015, Troup entered the final game hoping to avoid a winless season.
Troup accomplished that mission with a 28-0 victory over Whitewater that put the finishing touches on a 1-9 season.
Flash forward three years, and the game the Tigers are preparing for has slightly higher stakes.
In one of the state’s most highly-anticipated games, Troup will visit Cartersville on Friday in a matchup of unbeaten teams, with the winner walking away with the Region 5-AAAA championship.
Since that difficult 2015 season, Troup has an overall record of 26-6, and this is the third consecutive year it has played Cartersville for the region title.
With a win today, Troup would not only win its first region championship in more than 30 years, but it would post the program’s first-ever perfect regular season.
Looking back to that challenging first season and to where the program is now, Glisson said “it was the perfect storm.”
“The administration really supported us,” Glisson added. “The players were hungry. They wanted someone to come in that was going to stick around and be consistent with what we were selling. So, after three years of hard work, here we are sitting at 9-0, and hats off to those guys and the stability of our coaching staff.”
While this would no doubt be a landmark victory for Troup, it isn’t the final game.
Win or lose, Troup will be at Callaway Stadium next week for the opening round of the state playoffs.
“If we win Friday night, we’re going to enjoy it, we’re going to celebrate on the bus,” Glisson said. “When we get home, we’ll have to get back to work. One way or another, next week is do-or-die. This is not do-or-die. It’s going to a great atmosphere. It’s important to a lot of people, as it is us. But it’s not the end of the world. To this team, it’s been like that all year long. Every game has been big for some reason.”
Glisson is not short-changing the importance of the game, though.
Troup has been playing football for more than 60 years, and it has never had a 10-0 regular season, and it’s 31 years and counting since the most recent region title.
“It’s big for us,” Glisson said. “But it’s also big for the Troup community, and alumni and people like that. So that’s big. And when you put yourselves in those position, you have to take advantage of it.”
Glisson added that “the history part is important to (the players). They want to be known as one of the best teams to come through Troup. So it’s important.”
For Cartersville, winning titles is nothing new.
Cartersville has won six consecutive region titles, including four in a row under current head coach Joey King, and it won state championships in 2015 and 2016 when Trevor Lawrence was torching defenses.
While Cartersville lost some key players to graduation following the 2017 season, including Lawrence, the results have been the same.
Cartersville has had some close calls, but it is one win away from its sixth 10-0 regular season in seven years.
Since the start of the 2012 season, in fact, Cartersville has an overall record of 86-5, and it hasn’t lost in the regular season since the opener in 2014.
“Our goal, as a program, is to win championships, region championships and state championships,” King told the Cartersville Daily-Tribune. “This is a big step in accomplishing one of those goals, not necessarily the second. It’s the first of the two championships that we want to win.”
King added that “our kids are excited. We’re 9-0, Troup is 9-0 and they have a really, really good football program. We’re excited, one, to be playing for a region championship and, two, to be playing in front of our home crowd again. We’ve had an open week and two road games. Our guys are ready to play in Weinman Stadium.”
For Troup, one of the challenges will be trying to find success against a Cartersville defense that has given up just 50 points in nine games.
Cartersville’s defense hasn’t allowed a single point in its past three games.
The man who’ll lead Troup against that defense is junior quarterback Kobe Hudson, who has been phenomenal.
Hudson is a legitimate two-way threat who has thrown for 2,467 yards with 25 touchdowns while running for 772 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Hudson is surrounded by gifted play-makers included wide receivers Joko Willis, Jamari Thrash, Ja’Rell Smith, Trea Mitchell, and Mark-Anthony Dixon who have combined for 105 catches and 25 touchdowns.
“You name it, he does it well,” King said of Hudson. “I was hoping, when he moved to quarterback, he was just going to run it and be one-dimensional. That’s not the case. He is extremely talented and throws really good, catchable balls.”
Troup has been effective running the ball as well, with Hudson and running backs Trey Williams and Tyree Carlisle combining for 1,727 yards and 22 touchdowns.
Cartersville’s offense, while perhaps not quite as dynamic as it was when Lawrence was setting records, is still scoring 40 points per game.
Junior Tee Webb is the new man at quarterback for Cartersville, and he leads a balanced offense with plenty of weapons.
Troup’s veteran defense, while not as stingy as Cartersville’s, has been effective this season.
Linebacker King Mwikuta and defensive lineman Andy Boykin are the highest-profile men on defense based on the number of collegiate offers they’ve received, but they’re surrounded by capable, experienced players who have the respect of King.
“Their secondary is extremely athletic,” King said. “They’ve matched up with pretty much everybody they’ve played, and they’ve played some talented teams. Their front-seven is very physical. They’re going to look better than anybody we’ve played.”
Regardless of today’s outcome, Troup’s program has made tremendous strides in three years, and it has already been one of the best regular seasons in school history.
“We’re not perfect. We make mistakes like everybody else,” Glisson said. “But I think most fans appreciate the hard work we’ve put in.”
TROUP VS. CARTERSVILLE
WHEN: Friday, 7:30 p.m.
WHERE: Cartersville (Weinman Stadium)
RECORDS: Troup (9-0 overall, 5-0 in Region 5-AAAA); Cartersville (9-0, 5-0 in Region 5-AAAA)