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Troup nearly pulls off miracle comeback

By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY

Daily News

The Troup Tigers nearly pulled off a miracle finish, but it was the Hardaway Hawks hanging on for a 28-26 victory in a Region 2-AAAA thriller on Friday night at Callaway Stadium.

Hardaway had a 28-13 lead and possession with less than two minutes to play, and all it needed was one first down to run out the clock.

Instead, the Hawks lost a fumble, and that turned into a Tigers’ touchdown, and the lead was down to eight points.

Troup then recovered the onside kick and drove for the touchdown to make it a 28-26 game, and after an unsuccessful two-point attempt, Hardaway still had a two-point lead

Remarkably, the Tigers then recovered another onside kick, giving them a chance to pull off what would have been a stunning victory, but their hopes finally ended when a fourth-down play failed.

The Hawks took a knee and the clock expired, and they avoided what would have been a catastrophic setback.

It was a tough loss for Troup (0-3), which remained winless while falling to 0-1 in the region, but what head coach Tanner Glisson saw was a team that, despite the overwhelming odds, continued to fight, and scratch, and claw and nearly come away with a win in a game that appeared unwinnable with two minutes to play.

“I love our football team. I love these guys,” Glisson said. “This is a gritty football team. They don’t give up. They just keep battling. To get two onside kicks in a row, and I really felt if we got the two-point conversion we were going to overtime and we’d win the game. We had all the momentum. I think that they’re resilient. I think they’re tough. They want to get better.”

The late craziness began when the Tigers recovered a fumble inside the Hawks’ 20-yard line with 1:53 remaining.

After freshman quarterback Taeo Todd completed a 17-yard pass to Navelle Dean, AJ Tucker scored on a 1-yard run, and Cody Bray’s extra point made it a 28-20 game with 1:18 to play.

With no timeouts remaining, the Tigers attempted an onside kick, and it was recovered by Tucker at the Hawks’ 48-yard line.

Todd, showing off his explosive play-making ability, ripped off a 47-yard run, and the Tigers had the ball on the 6-yard line.

On the following play, Tucker got the call, and he bulled his way through the Hardaway defense for a 6-yard touchdown run, and Troup was within two.

Tucker was given the ball again on the two-point attempt, but he was stopped just short of the goal line, and Hardaway kept its two-point lead.

The Tigers, against all odds, recovered a second straight onside kick, and they had possession at the Hawks’ 45-yard line with 56 seconds to play.

This time Troup’s offense was unable to find success, and the outcome was finally decided when Todd threw an incomplete pass on fourth down.

Although Todd was unable to lead Troup down the field at the end, he continues to progress and show incredible poise for a player who was in middle school a year ago this time.

Todd also had a 3-yard touchdown run in the first half that gave Troup a 13-6 lead, and he had a long touchdown pass to Marquavious Kelley negated because of a penalty.

“That’s our guy,” Glisson said of Todd. “His demeanor never changes. You’re up, or you’re down, or whatever. He’s the same calm, cool, collected young man.”

Troup started the game with a bang, with Anthony Ferguson returning the opening kickoff 90 yards for the touchdown, and Bray’s extra point gave Troup the early 7-0 lead.

Hardaway answered with a touchdown on its opening possession, with Jordan Moultrie scoring on a 60-yard run, and Troup maintained a one-point lead when it blocked the extra-point attempt.

Later in the first quarter, the Tigers extended their lead when Todd scored on a 3-yard run, and they were ahead 13-6 after the unsuccessful extra-point attempt.

Todd got the Tigers to the 1-yard line with a 13-yard run, and he scored three plays later.

Back came the Hawks, who got a 29-yard scoring run from Moultrie with 11:18 in the first half, and the two-point conversion gave them a 14-13 lead, and that was the score at the half.

The Hawks found the end zone on the opening possession of the second half, with quarterback DJ Lucas scoring on a 30-yard run, and the two-point conversion gave the visiting team a 22-13 lead with 9:43 left in the third quarter.

The Tigers appeared to strike back on a 77-yard touchdown pass from Todd to Kelley, but a holding play wiped out the score, and they ended up punting.

The Hawks went right back to work, and Lucas scored on a 37-yard run, and the lead was 28-13 late in the third quarter after a failed two-point attempt.

That’s the way it remained until the Tigers made their frantic late push, only to come up just short.

Troup will look for its first win when it hosts Spencer on Friday.

“I think you look at it as, what’s the goal next week? And the goal next week is we need to win a football game,” Glisson said. “We’ve got to out there and win a game, and get better. I don’t think we’re a bad football team. We’ve played three playoff teams, and we’ve got a 14-year-old quarterback, and he’s battling and playing hard.”