Game time for Tigers
Published 3:11 pm Thursday, August 29, 2019
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
While most high-school football teams in the state embarked on a new season last week, the Troup Tigers were spectators.
On Friday night at what should be a packed Callaway Stadium, Troup will take the field for its much-anticipated season debut against the Ridgeland Panthers.
It’ll be Troup’s first official game since the 2018 season ended with a loss to Blessed Trinity in the semifinals of the Class AAAA state playoffs.
That setback was the closing chapter to the best season in the history of the program.
The Tigers went 12-2 and set a program record for wins in a season while making it to the state semifinals for the second time ever, and the first time since 2001.
The Tigers head into this season as a legitimate state-championship contender in Class AAAA, and they’re ranked as high as second in some preseason polls, so it’s no wonder they can’t wait to get on the field for a game that counts.
“I think we’re extremely antsy,” said Tanner Glisson, Troup’s head coach since 2015. “Last week and this week, and especially the first couple of days of this week, we’ve had to pull the kids back. And that’s good. That’s what we want. We’re ready for Friday night to hurry up and get here, and get going. I would be shocked if we didn’t come out with a lot of energy Friday night. We don’t want to go out there and burn out the first quarter, so we’ve got to keep our emotions in check a little bit.”
Troup’s opponent is a Ridgeland team that also has high expectations.
Ridgeland has won 28 games over the past three years, and it has made it to the second round of the state playoffs the past two seasons.
After losing to Troup 32-0 last year to fall to 0-2, Ridgeland ended up going 8-4 and losing to Cartersville in the second round of the playoffs.
Ridgeland opened the current season with a 38-8 loss to Calhoun last week.
Friday’s game will be the start of a challenging non-region schedule for Troup, which plays Columbus, Harris County and Callaway before opening Region 5-AAAA play against Chapel Hill on Sept. 27.
“Every one of our non-region games that we play, (those teams) made it to the playoffs last year, and three of them made it to two or more games,” Glisson said. “Harris was the only one that lost in the first round.”
Troup then begins a region schedule that includes two teams, Cartersville and Sandy Creek, that are in the top five in nearly every preseason poll.
The Tigers aren’t shying away from any challenges, though.
Despite losing some gifted seniors from last year’s team, the Tigers appear well-positioned to do some special things in the coming weeks and months.
It helps to have one of the state’s best players in quarterback Kobe Hudson, and he’s surrounded by offensive play-makers and a talented offensive line.
Troup’s defense, which didn’t give up a point in a preseason game against Northside-Columbus, is stout as well.
“They ooze with confidence,” Glisson said. “It’s not a cockiness that we can’t be beat, it’s that we believe in what we’re doing, we believe in our process and how we do things, and it’s consistent every day.
“There’s not a lot of change in what we do and how we behave. We behave one way every single day.”
The Tigers have come a long way from the 2015 season when they went 1-9 and lost their first nine games.
That was a difficult season for Troup, as well as its first-year head coach who was thrown into a challenging position after coming from Manchester.
“We had to really sell ourselves to the kids, that they’d have confidence and trust in us, and I think we did that to the best of our ability,” Glisson said. “So now it’s paying off. Now, it’s kind of like they’ll pretty much do whatever we ask them to do.”
The Tigers enjoyed a turnaround season in 2016 when they went 8-3 and finished second in the region.
Troup took it a step further in 2017, going 9-3 and reaching the second round of the state playoffs.
It all came together in 2018, with Troup winning its first nine game on the way to a 12-2 season.
Troup’s only two losses, both on the road, were against the two teams that played for the state championship.
While the Tigers have clearly arrived as an elite team, the goal now is to keep moving forward, to not be satisfied.
“Sometimes people think they’ve arrived, or they’ve got other teams that are trying to jockey for your position,” Glisson said. “You get circled on everybody’s calendar. It becomes one of those things where it’s really hard to stay at a high level.”
As for Friday’s game, Glisson’s hope is that all the work the players have put in will pay dividends.
“We talk about the hard work is Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday,” Glisson said. “Our job is go out and perform on Friday night, and go and have fun, and do things the right way.”
WHEN: Friday, 7:30 p.m.
WHERE: Callaway Stadium
LAST YEAR: Troup went 12-2 and reached the Class AAAA semifinals; Ridgeland went 8-4 and reached the second round of the Class AAAA playoffs
LAST MEETING: Troup beat Ridgeland 32-0 last season