Business as usual for Tigers
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
For the Troup Tigers, while the opponent may change, the way they go about their business does not.
On Friday night at what should be a jam-packed Callaway Stadium, Troup will face Callaway in a matchup that has received plenty of state-wide attention.
It’s a game that will feature two elite teams with legitimate state-championship aspirations, and there will be future college-football players all over the field.
With all of that in mind, Troup head coach Tanner Glisson has made sure to stress to the players that it is just one out of 10 regular-season games, so don’t make more of it than it is.
“The thing we try to talk about this week is, we prepare the same way every week,” Glisson said. “The kids were asking if we’re coming in Sunday. No, we’re not coming in Sunday. We haven’t come in Sunday all year. You’ve got to keep it the same.”
Win or lose, Troup will have to turn around and open its Region 5-AAAA schedule against Chapel Hill next week.
While bragging rights will be at stake against Callaway, positioning for the state playoffs will on the line during the six-game region schedule that begins next week.
Following last year’s game, Callaway and Troup both went on to enjoy tremendous success, with both squads reaching the state semifinals.
“When I look back on last year, that game that we were fortunate enough to win helped both of us,” said Glisson, whose team beat Callaway 37-20 in 2018. “It gave us confidence, and (Callaway) went to the (state) semifinals. So this is not the end all be all game. It’s great for us, it’s great for them, it’s great for the community. At the end of the day, next week starts region play, so you better be ready to go. Sometimes that’s a little bit harder when you win than when you lose. You start patting yourself on the back, and everybody tells you how great you are.”
For Troup, this will be a second consecutive game against a back-yard rival. Last week, facing neighboring Harris County, Troup held on for a 27-21 victory.
Now, Troup (3-0) turns its attention to a Callaway team that is 2-1 after losing to Opelika and beating LaGrange and Cross Keys.
“That was a hard-fought football game (against Harris County) that could have gone either way, and after the game, everybody was respectful, cordial, loving on each other,” Glisson said. “I hope win, lose or draw on Friday that’s the same way with our two teams.”
After winning its first two games by blowout, Troup had its hands full with Harris County.
Harris County had the ball at the end with an opportunity to win it with a touchdown and an extra point, but Jabralin Gooden came through with an interception to end it.
The Tigers got it done with a powerful running game, with senior running back Trey Williams leading the way with 121 yards on 23 attempts with two touchdowns.
Kobe Hudson, Troup’s outstanding senior quarterback, ran for 114 yards on 11 carries, and he also completed 11-of-15 passes for 89 yards with a touchdown pass to tight end Luke Purnell.
Troup’s defense did an admirable job slowing down a high-powered Harris County offense.
Gooden had a big night for the Tigers with 11 tackles, and it was his interception with time winding down that secured the victory.
“I was just in the right place at the right time, and I made the big play,” Gooden said of his pick.
Fellow linebacker Devon Hill had nine tackles, and he returned a fumble for a touchdown in the first half.
Freshman linebacker A.J. Tucker also had nine tackles, as did defensive lineman Jeremiah Holston.
Defensive lineman Xavier Clarke had a season-best eight tackles, and Glisson said he made a massive impact on the game.
“Xavier Clarke played his best game of the season on the defensive line,” Glisson said. “He played extremely good, technique-wise, how he graded out. He might not have made as many tackles as Jeremiah, but how he graded out was extremely good.”
Defensive linemen Jordan Adams and Andy Boykin had seven and six tackles, respectively.
Troup’s defensive players will be put to the test on Friday against a high-powered Callaway offense led by future Auburn Tiger Cartavious “Tank” Bigsby.
Bigsby, a senior running back, has 477 yards on 40 carries this season, good for an average of nearly 12 yards per attempt.
Callaway also has a talented quarterback in Demetrius Coleman, and he has four talented wide receivers to throw the ball to in seniors Jacob Freeman, Jymere Jones, Antinez Blount and Markus Morman.
“You have to stop Tank, or do the best you can,” Glisson said. “Even then, if you commit guys to doing that, you don’t totally stop him. I watched film on him last year, and I watched film on him this year. He’s so much better than he was last year. He’s bigger, stronger, faster. He’s one of those guys that can will you to victory.”
Glisson also has tremendous respect for Coleman, who had three touchdown passes last week against Cross Keys.
“To me, it all starts with the quarterback,” Glisson said. “That’s the straw that stirs the drink. He makes things happen.”
Glisson also expects his offense to be challenge against a Callaway defense that has been playing well.
“They run to the football extremely well,” Glisson said. “Their overall team speed is an issue. We’ll have to throw the ball some to be able to win.”
Troup’s final practice of the week came on Wednesday, and the players will have a walk-through on Thursday.
The preparations have been made, the game plan is installed, and now it’s time to play football.
“Let’s go play, and we’ll see what happens,” Glisson said. “We’ve had a good week.”
WHEN: Friday, 7:30 p.m.
WHERE: Callaway Stadium
RECORDS: Troup (3-0); Callaway (2-1)
LAST YEAR: Troup beat Callaway 37-20
ALL-TIME SERIES: Troup leads 5-4