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Tough challenge for Troup defense

By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY

Daily News

In a critical October showdown, the Pickens County Dragons scored 31 points in a victory over Ridgeland.

That game was significant for a couple of reasons.

Number one, it was an important victory that helped propel the Dragons to the Region 8-AAAA championship.

Also, it was also the only time this season the Dragons were held to fewer than 40 points in a game.

Pickens County, which hosts Troup on Friday in the second round of the state playoffs, has scored 506 points this season, and that’s good for an average of 46 points per game.

It’ll be up to Troup’s defense to try to find a way to do what no team has been able to do this season, and that’s slow down a formidable Pickens County offense.

“We’ve got to figure out a way to get this group stopped,” Troup head coach Tanner Glisson said. “They’re averaging a lot of points.”

The man who makes the Pickens offense go is quarterback C.J. Streicher, who like Troup’s Kobe Hudson is a dual threat.

Streicher has thrown for 1,325 yards with 19 touchdowns, and he’s also run for 977 yards with 13 touchdowns.

Robert Davis, who had a 216-yard effort earlier in the year, has run for 697 yards with 12 touchdowns, and Zach Goss is tops among the receivers with 24 catches for 546 yards and 10 touchdowns.

“They have about four or five base plays, but they’re doing it out of a thousand formations,” Glisson said. “So we’ve just got to make sure they don’t trick us, that we recognize things, and that we line up correctly. There are some games where we look on there, and they never run the same formation twice. But I think we’ve got a good scheme.”

It’s a veteran Troup defense that includes players who have gone up against plenty of elite offenses over the years, and Glisson will rely on those men this week.

“You’re able to make adjustments with guys who have been there and done that,” Glisson said. “If I go tell (senior linebacker) Kevin Martin, I need you to change your keys right now, he’s seen about every offense there is. So it should not totally throw us a curve ball. That’s where your experience comes into play.”

Another one of the veterans is senior Kaliff Thornton, who is part of a defensive line that has had a big season.

Thornton and his teammates on the defensive line helped slow down Oconee County in last week’s 42-28 playoff win.

While Oconee County scored three offensive touchdowns, it was limited to 253 yards, including 136 rushing yards.

“I felt like we did a really good job up front on the defensive line,” Glisson said. “I though Kaliff Thornton had his best game all year long. They did not run the ball effectively.”

Leading up to the game, Thornton felt that controlling the line of scrimmage was going to be critical.

“We realized going through our meetings that it was going to be won in the trenches,” Thornton said. “And I tried to get me and the defensive line ready to go to battle. We had to stay low.”

There are two seniors on the defensive line, Thornton and Monta Hall.

“We’re the leaders,” Thornton said. “We try to show everybody what to do, what not to do, in school, and out of school.”

The other four primary defensive linemen, Andy Boykin, Jeremiah Holston, Royce White and Jordan Adams, are underclassmen.

In the Oconee County game, one of those players got to celebrate a touchdown, with Boykin returning a fumble for a score late in the first half.

Senior linebacker King Mwikuta stripped the ball from quarterback Max Johnson, and Boykin scooped the ball up at the 2-yard line and scored.

“When I saw it on the ground, and I knew I couldn’t get it, I was glad to see him score,” Thornton said.

As for this week’s opponent, it usually doesn’t take the Dragons long to find the end zone, and Glisson is hopeful his defense can do a better job of slowing them down.

“That’s the big thing, not giving up the big explosive plays,” Glisson said. “Just make them drive the length of the field.”

OF NOTE: For much more on the game, see Friday’s sports section