No quit in Tigers
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
The game wasn’t over, but Troup’s hopes were on life support.
Hardaway not only had a 15-point lead with less than two minutes remaining in last week’s game, but it had possession with an opportunity run out the clock with one first down.
While the situation was desperate, the Tigers weren’t about to throw in the towel.
Troup recovered a fumble and scored a touchdown on an AJ Tucker run with 1:18 remaining, and the Cody Bray extra point cut Hardaway’s lead to 28-22.
With no timeouts, Troup head coach Tanner Glisson called for the onside kick, and Bray executed it perfectly, and Tucker recovered the ball with 1:18 remaining.
After a 47-yard run by freshman quarterback Taeo Todd, Tucker’s 6-yard touchdown run made it a 28-26 game, and the Tigers were a two-point conversion away from tying the game.
Tucker took the handoff from Todd, but he was stopped short of the goal line, and Troup still trailed by two.
Remarkably, the Tigers then recovered another onside kick.
The second time around it was Isaac Andrews delivering a text-book perfect onside kick, and Qua Moss fell on the ball, and the Tigers had the ball at the Hawks’ 45-yard line with 56 seconds to play.
Were the Tigers about to pull off what would have been a miraculous comeback?
Unfortunately for Troup, it wasn’t meant to be.
When a fourth-down pass fell incomplete, Hardaway ran one kneel-down play and the clock ran out, and Troup lost 28-26.
“For the majority of this game, they were the better football team,” Troup head coach Tanner Glisson said. “They were more physical than we were. But, they gave us a chance. Our kids fought, and gave us a chance.”
While it was a losing night for the Tigers, Glisson isn’t discouraged, and he knows his players will continue to give it everything they have.
“I love these guys,” Glisson said. “This is a gritty football team. They don’t give up. They just keep battling.”
Troup fell to 0-3 and 0-1 in Region 2-AAAA, and it will try to secure its first win when it hosts Spencer on Friday.
Here are some highlights from the 28-26 loss to Hardaway:
PROVIDING STABILITY: While there have been plenty of highlights for Troup freshman quarterback Taeo Todd, there have been some moments that didn’t go well.
Regardless of how a play goes, or what’s happening in the game, head coach Tanner Glisson said Todd never wavers and remains a stabilizing force on the offense.
“His demeanor never changes,” Glisson said. “You’re up, you’re down, or whatever, he’s the same calm, cool, collected young man.”
Against Hardaway, Todd helped Troup’s offense score three touchdowns, and the team also scored on a kickoff return.
In the first quarter, Todd had a 20-yard run to get the ball close to the goal line, and he scored on a 3-yard run two plays later.
Late in the fourth quarter after a Hardaway fumble, Todd found Navelle Dean for a 17-yard completion, and that led to a Tucker 1-yard scoring run.
After Troup recovered an onside kick, Todd ripped off a 47-yard run, and on the next play Tucker scored on a 7-yard run.
Todd also threw a 77-yard touchdown pass to Marquavious Kelley, but that play was negated by a holding penalty.
MAKING AN IMPACT: Troup was having trouble getting anything going in the running game, so Glisson decided to give AJ Tucker a chance, and the sophomore responded in a big way with two touchdown runs in the fourth quarter.
Tucker had a 1-yard scoring run with 1:18 to play, and he added a 6-yard touchdown run after Troup recovered an onside kick.
“We had to go with a little bit bigger body and run right at them,” Glisson said of the decision to go with Tucker. “Their length off the ends were giving us trouble.”
After Tucker’s second touchdown run made it a 28-26 game, Tucker’s number was called again on the critical two-point attempt, and he was stopped short.
“I wish we could have gotten in there (on the two-point attempt),” Glisson said. “I felt like he needed the ball in his hands. He was the player I wanted to have the ball.”
SPECIAL-TEAMS TURNAROUND: In a 27-7 loss to Callaway, Troup had some special-teams breakdowns that proved costly.
That aspect of the game was much-improved against Hardaway.
Not only did the Tigers recover two onside kicks late in the game, but Anthony Ferguson returned the opening kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown.
Troup also did a nice job of covering kickoffs, and punter Isaac Andrews was outstanding when called upon.
“The punting was good, in the return game we returned a kickoff for a touchdown,” Glisson said. “All in all, special teams was pretty solid.”
Troup also nearly pulled off a successful fake-punt attempt.
In the first quarter, Glisson called for the fake punt, and the Tigers came up one yard short of a first down.
“We’ve been working on it all week, and we had it,” Glisson said. “It was fourth-and-18, and we got 17. I really thought he was going to get the first down. We didn’t, and it gave them a short field.”
Hardaway took advantage of that positive field position to score a touchdown and take a 14-13 lead.
DEFENSIVE LEADERS: Zy Varner, Troup’s exceptional senior linebacker, led Troup against Hardaway with nine tackles, including two for loss.
A pair of defensive linemen, Ty Hilton and Jordan Adams, also had big nights with seven tackles and six tackles, respectively.
TOUGH SCHEDULE: Troup has been challenged by a difficult non-region schedule that includes three teams that will most likely be in the state playoffs after the regular season.
While Callaway and Harris County are both 3-0, Hardaway is 2-1, and its lone loss came against Callaway.
“I don’t think we’re a bad football team,” Glisson said. “We’ve played three playoff teams, with a 14-year-old quarterback, and he’s battling and playing hard.”