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Explosive opener for Tigers

By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY

Daily News

What a way to jump into a new season.

Troup’s Kobe Hudson, coming off a memorable debut season as a starting quarterback, put up some staggering numbers during Friday’s opening-night game against Ridgeland.

Hudson, a senior who has committed to Auburn, accounted for nearly 600 combined yards passing and running to lead his team to a 59-24 victory over Ridgeland.

Hudson completed 14-of-18 passes for 326 yards with three touchdowns, and he ran for 240 yards on 14 attempts with three touchdowns.

Hudson had another long touchdown run called back because of a penalty or his numbers would have been even more impressive.

Another one of Troup’s offensive play-makers, senior running back Trey Williams, also had a monster night with 210 yards on 24 attempts with a touchdown.

Ridgeland’s offensive game plan was to control the ball, run a lot of plays, and keep Hudson and the Troup offense off the field.

Early on that plan was carried out nicely by the Panthers, who ate up more than five minutes on their opening possession and scored a touchdown.

Troup’s first possession ended with a failed fake-punt attempt on fourth down, giving the ball right back to Ridgeland.

Ridgeland was unable to get anything going, though, and Troup got the ball back when senior linebacker Jabralin Gooden recovered a fumble.

It took the Tigers one play after that to score their first points of the season.

Zy Varner, part of a new-look wide receiver corps, beat his defender off the line and caught a pass about 15 yards down the field and raced untouched for an 80-yard touchdown late in the first quarter.

The Tigers didn’t look back.

Troup scored touchdowns on back-to-back possessions in the second quarter, and it continued to pour it on in the second half.

While happy to see his team start with a win, head coach Tanner Glisson said there’s room for improvement in all areas.

“We just had so much stuff we’ve got to go back to work on, but that’s OK, because you can fix everything tomorrow but the scoreboard, so we’ll take 1-0 and move on,” Glisson said. “The expectations are really high, and sometimes it’s hard to live up to expectations.”

No player has higher expectations than Hudson, who was a wide receiver his first two years at Troup before transitioning to quarterback.

Hudson threw for 3,386 yards with 32 touchdowns last season, and he ran for 1,410 yards with 18 touchdowns.

Hudson accounted for 4,796 yards and 50 touchdowns while leading Troup to a 12-2 record and a spot in the Class AAAA  semifinals.

Through one game, at least, Hudson looks as though he can equal or even surpass what he did a year ago.

Two of Hudson’s touchdown passes went to the receiver with the most experience, senior speedster Mark-Anthony Dixon.

Dixon had touchdown receptions of 37 and 44 yards in the second quarter, and he finished with four catches for 96 yards.

Varner, making his regular-season debut as a wide receiver after playing defense last season, had 147 receiving yards on just three catches with the 80-yard touchdown.

“It feels good,” Varner said of being able to contribute on offense. “I’ll just do what I do. I’ve got to execute for the team.”

Another new receiver, Marquavious Kelley, had one catch for 24 yards, and senior tight end Luke Purnell caught four balls for 32 yards.

“They work hard,” Hudson said of Dixon and Kelley. “They’ve worked their butt off, going from defense to offense. They’re doing a good job.”

Williams contributed two receptions for 37 yards.

What makes Hudson so exceptional is not only what he does in the passing game, but his ability to beat teams with the run as well.

Hudson averaged 17 yards on his 14 rushing attempts with touchdown runs of 10, 26 and 55 yards. A 60-yard Hudson scoring run was negated because of a holding penalty.

Ridgeland also had no answer for Williams, who had the most productive game of his high-school career.

Williams averaged 8.8 yards per carry while running for a career-high 210 yards, and he had a 26-yard scoring run.

Williams also made an impact on special teams, returning a free kick for a touchdown after a fourth-quarter safety.

Hudson, who is asked to carry such a heavy offensive load, is glad to have Williams in the backfield with him.

“When I’m tired, I know I can get him the ball, and he’ll get six or seven yards, and maybe break one every now and then,” Hudson said.

With a talented offensive leading the way and all of the play-makers doing their thing, the Tigers were unstoppable in week one, and they’ll try to keep it going with Thursday’s road game against the Columbus Blue Devils.

“We’ve got to execute mentally and dominate,” Varner said. “It’s one week at a time.”

Hudson, in what could be a scary proposition for the opposition, believes there is plenty of room for improvement.

“I just think it’s our first game, and we’ve got some people who didn’t play last year,” Hudson said. “We’ve just got to get that communication and that connection right. We’ll get better the next game.”