Plenty of contributors for Tigers
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
For the Troup Tigers, there was little suspense during the first two games of the season.
After beating Ridgeland 59-24 on opening night, Troup overwhelmed Columbus 68-13 to improve to 2-0.
On Thursday night at Callaway Stadium, the script changed for the Tigers.
Facing a determined and talented Harris County team, there would be no blowout.
The teams stood toe-to-toe, and the outcome wasn’t determined until Jabralin Gooden came up with an interception
with less than a minute remaining as Troup held on for a 27-21 victory.
It was a hard-earned, emotional win for the Tigers, who found themselves in a competitive game for the first time this season.
“You learn something about your team when you go through trials like this,” said Tanner Glisson, Troup’s head coach. “So that was good. Just showing some character through adversity was good.”
Will Cooley, a member of an offensive line that had a big night, has no doubt the game will benefit both teams down the road.
“Win or lose, I think this will make us a better football team overall, and the same to them,” Cooley said. “They came out here and they battled, and they practiced just as hard as we did I’m sure.”
Here’s a look at some of the moments that made the difference in Thursday’s game:
FINDING THE END ZONE: Late in the first quarter, Harris County had the ball on its side of the field when the shotgun snap got away from the quarterback.
Troup linebacker Devon Hill was on the spot, and he scooped up the ball and raced 57 yards for the touchdown to give his team a 14-7 lead.
Hill’s first inclination was to fall on the ball and make sure the Tigers took over, but he wasn’t going to let an opportunity to score a touchdown pass him by.
“My first thing was, I wanted to lay on the ball, but I said I can’t do that, I’ve got to run this back,” Hill said.
Those six points were critical, since that proved to be the final margin of victory in the 27-21 win.
While Harris County had some offensive success, Troup’s defense came up big when it had to, making two critical stops late in the fourth quarter.
“It was our time,” Hill said. “I said we’ve got to stick in there, and make plays. We can’t lose this game.”
MAKING PLAYS: Harris County had the ball at the end with a chance to win the game with a touchdown and an extra point.
The Tigers needed someone to step up and make a play, and defensive lineman Andy Boykin and linebacker Jabralin Gooden did just that.
On third down, Boykin got into the backfield and sacked the quarterback, putting Harris County in a third-and-long situation.
“When the timeout happened (before the third-down play), we talked to him about (Boykin) had to make a play for us, and he did,” Glisson said.
On the next play, Gooden stepped in front of a receiver and picked off a pass.
“I was just in the right place at the right time, and I made the big play,” Gooden said.
LEADING THE WAY: The Tigers are well-known for their ability to score quickly and hit for big plays, but as they showed on Thursday, they can also grind out sustained, time-consuming drives if they need to.
In the second half, Troup had a 15-play, 94-yard touchdown drive that ended with a Trey Williams 1-yard run.
Later in the half, the Tigers went 61 plays in seven plays, with Williams finishing things off with a 21-yard run.
In the first half, Troup had a 10-play, 62-yard scoring drive that culminated with Kobe Hudson’s 21-yard touchdown pass to Luke Purnell.
The Tigers were able to put together those drives thanks in large part to the effort of an offensive line that did a terrific job paving the way.
It’s an offensive line that included Michael Irvin, Braxton Truitt, Will Cooley, Tyler Kitchens and Royce White, and Caleb Leslie also played a lot.
Cooley, a junior center, said the offensive success came from everyone on that side of the ball doing their jobs.
“I’ve got to give my thanks to all our athletes,” Cooley said. “Without them, we wouldn’t be anything. They practice just as hard as we do. They come to work every day just like we do. It was just a team effort from us on the offensive line, to the guys getting us water. It took everybody tonight to get this victory. That’s a good football team over there. They played very hard.”
ANATOMY OF A DRIVE: Troup began its first possession of the second half at its own 6-yard line following a Harris County punt.
Troup and Harris County were tied 14-14, so that was a key juncture in the game.
Fifteen plays and nearly six minutes of clock time later, the Tigers were in the end zone with the go-ahead touchdown.
It was an impressive drive for the Tigers, who did it all on the ground.
Trey Williams finished things off with a 1-yard touchdown run, and he carried the ball nine times on the drive.
Navontae Moss also made an impact on the drive with two carries for 21 yards, and Carlos Cato had one carry for six yards.
Quarterback Kobe Hudson also did his part with three carries for 40 yards, including a 24-yard run that put the ball on Harris County’s side of the field.
Hudson attempted one pass that fell incomplete, but other than that it was nothing but running plays on the drive.
TIP DRILL: Luke Purnell, Troup’s senior tight end, showed off his ability to concentrate in the first quarter of Thursday’s game.
On a third-and-goal play from the 21-yard line, Kobe Hudson dropped back and threw the ball into the end zone.
The ball was tipped by a Harris County defender, and it deflected off his hands into the arms of Purnell for the 21-yard touchdown.
It was the second straight week Purnell scored a touchdown.