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Troup ready for road test

By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY

Daily News

It was a tough day for the Troup Tigers.

Troup headed into its region-championship showdown with a 9-0 record, and the players and coaches were feeling confident as they walked onto the natural grass turf of Cartersville’s Weinman Stadium.

Things started out poorly and never got much better, though, with Troup falling behind 14-0 less than two minutes into the game on the way to a 43-10 victory.

As discouraging as that loss was, the Tigers could take some solace from the fact that they had more football to be played.

The Tigers shrugged off that setback to deliver two impressive performances in the Class AAAA state playoffs, and they’ll be on the road today to play the Cairo Syrupmakers in the quarterfinals.

The winner will face either Eastside or Blessed Trinity in the semifinals next week.

“The way the whole team has bounced back (from the Cartersville game) has been really good,” Troup head coach Tanner Glisson said. “We said it could be really bad for us, or it could be one of the best things that could happen to us. At this point, it looks as if we’ve learned a lot of good lessons from it.”

Troup began its playoff run with a 42-28 victory over Oconee County, setting up a second-round showdown with Pickens County.

Pickens County was unbeaten and riding high after getting the first playoff win in the history of the program, but it was no match for Troup.

The Tigers led 28-0 after the first quarter and 41-0 at the half, and the second half went quickly with a running clock.

“It was the best game we’ve played all year,” Glisson said.

For Troup’s offense, it was more of the same.

With junior quarterback Kobe Hudson leading the attack, the Tigers had nearly 550 yards of offense.

Hudson has been a marvel all season, throwing for 3,093 yards with 29 touchdowns while running for 1,051 yards with 15 touchdowns.

Hudson is surrounded by play-makers, including running backs Tyree Carlisle and Trey Williams, and wide receivers Jamari Thrash, Ja’Rell Smith, Joko Willis and Mark-Anthony Dixon.

Troup’s defense also delivered a dominant effort against a Pickens County offense that had been one of the state’s best.

With the game well in hand in the second half, Glisson was able to substitute liberally and have his key players resting safely on the sidelines.

“It was good to get those guys out of the game, and let some other kids play,” Glisson said.

This week, Troup has been preparing for a Cairo team that is riding high.

Cairo (10-2), the champion from Region 1-AAAA, blanked Henry County 44-0 in the first round before dispatching Thomson 38-14 last week.

Cairo opened the season with back-to-back losses to Thomasville and Bainbridge, but it has won 10 in a row since then.

“They’re a very run-oriented football team,” Glisson said. “They’re very physical, very fast, as most Cairo teams are. “They’re very well-coached, they’re good on special teams. And everybody at this point in the quarterfinals is really good.”

Cairo will also be able to play on its home field, and Glisson figures it’ll be an electric atmosphere.

“I’ve been down there a couple of times, and it’s going to be a very hostile environment the day after Thanksgiving,” Glisson said. “Everybody’s at home.”

Not that Glisson is complaining. His team is still playing, and that’s all that matters this time of year.

“We’ll play in Alaska if they tell us to,” Glisson said.

Whatever happens today, it has already been one of the most special seasons in the history of the program.

The Tigers are in the state quarterfinals for the third time in school, and they can set a program record for wins in a season if they prevail today.

This has already been the best three-year stretch in the history of the program, and that is all the more impressive considering Troup went 1-9 in 2015.

Leading the way are a group of seniors who have been with Glisson since his arrival in the spring of 2015.

“In my 19 years of coaching, this is probably the most special group I’ve been around,” Glisson said. “I think it’s a large part because they’re real dear to me personally. And they stuck with us when a lot of people around them during the 1-9 season told them they should probably go elsewhere. We stuck together, and just stayed the course.”

On Thursday morning, the Tigers got together for a Thanksgiving practice, and Glisson was glad to be able to share some time with people who are so close to him.

“Those guys are family to us,” Glisson said. “But that’s why you do what you do. You want to work your job to the highest level possible. So we’ve done a really job with it. It helps to have 12 assistant coaches that are really good. And on top of that and being good coaches and professionals, they’re good role models.”

If Troup is going to continue playing beyond today, it’ll have to get past a formidable Cairo squad.

Sophomore quarterback Ronnie Baker leads the Cairo offense, and he has thrown for 803 yards with six touchdowns.

The Syrupmakers do most of their damage on the ground, with a host of backs combining for 2,263 yards and 37 touchdowns.Tay Solomon headlines the rushing attack with 759 yards and 10 touchdowns, and Matthew Peters also had 10 scoring runs.

Now, the Syrupmakers are in the quarterfinals for the second time in four years, and they’re three wins away from fourth state title in the history of the program.

“We’re still in it,” Cairo head coach Steven DeVoursney said. “There’s only 64 teams practicing in the state of Georgia next week and we’re one of them. We’ll take it.”

TROUP VS. CAIRO

WHEN: Today, 7:30 p.m.

WHAT: Quarterfinals of Class AAAA state playoffs

WHERE: Cairo