Hard-earned win for Tigers
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
The Shaw Raiders made things interesting, but when the clock struck zero, it was the Troup Tigers celebrating a hard-earned and critical region win on homecoming night at Callaway Stadium.
The surging Tigers beat the Raiders 16-12 for their fourth consecutive victory to improve to 4-3 overall, and 4-1 in Region 2-AAAA.
The Tigers took a big step toward securing one of the region’s four state-playoff berths, and they remained in the hunt for the region championship with three regular-season games remaining.
“If you win by 100, or you win by one, you win, and you move on,” said Troup head coach Tanner Glisson.
The Tigers led 16-0 when they scored a touchdown with a little more than seven minutes remaining in the third quarter, but the Raiders didn’t go away.
The Raiders scored a pair of touchdowns to get within four early in the fourth quarter, and late in the game they had the ball inside the Tigers’ 5-yard line with an opportunity to take the lead.
Troup’s defense stood tall and made a goal-line stand, and it made one more stop with less than a minute remaining to preserve the win.
It was a game between two teams desperate for a win with so much on the line, and senior running back Navontae Moss wasn’t surprised to see the Raiders put up such a spirited fight.
“We know to get to the playoffs, it’ll be tough,” Moss said. “It felt like (a playoff game).”
When the Tigers scored a touchdown on a 1-yard run by quarterback Taeo Todd with 7:10 left in the third quarter, they were ahead 16-0, and it didn’t look like there was going to be much suspense.
Shaw wasn’t going away, though.
A touchdown pass by Wason Davis with 4:32 left in the third quarter, and a 32-yard scoring run by Derrick Kelley moments into the fourth quarter made it a 16-12 game, with the Tigers maintaining a four-point lead after stopping a pair of two-point conversion attempts.
While there were a few hold-your-breath moments the rest of the way, the night belonged to the home team.
“It was a heck of a game,” Glisson said. “I’m excited. There’s a lot of things we can do better, no doubt about it, but we won.”
After a scoreless first quarter, the Tigers put the game’s first points on the scoreboard with a 69-yard touchdown drive.
Shaw had the ball in Troup territory late in the first quarter, by Zy Varner’s sack forced a punt, and the offense went to work.
Moss had runs of 16 and 11 yards to help the Tigers advance the ball, and Todd had some nice runs of his own while completing a 16-yard pass to Navelle Dean.
AJ Tucker, Troup’s gifted sophomore running back, completed the drive with a 7-yard touchdown run, and Cody Bray made the extra point, and the lead was 7-0 with 6:33 left in the first half.
After recovering a fumble at the Shaw 44-yard line, Troup marched down the field again, with a 29-yard run by Todd putting the ball on the 11-yard line.
The drive stalled, and Bray connected on a 22-yard field goal to give Troup a 10-0 lead with 1:39 left in the second quarter, and that was the score at the half.
The Tigers began the opening possession of the second half at their own 28-yard line, and 13 plays and nearly five minutes of clock time later, they were in the end zone.
While most of the damage was done on the ground, Todd completed a 20-yard pass to Marquavious Kelley to put the ball in Shaw territory.
On fourth down, Todd scored on a 1-yard run, and when the extra-point attempt was blocked, Troup led 16-0 with 7:10 left in the third quarter.
The Raiders showed off their explosiveness with a pair of quick touchdowns to get within four, and they made a major push to complete the rally and take the lead.
The Raiders got as close as the 4-yard line, but the Tigers made a massive fourth-down stop, and they took over on downs with 2:45 to play.
The Tigers could have run out the clock with a first down, but they went three-and-out, and Bray delivered a clutch 40-yard punt, and the Raiders began their final possession from their own 44-yard line.
A holding penalty and a sack by Qua Birdsong knocked the Raiders way back, and they had nearly 30 yards to cover for a first down when a last-gasp pass attempt fell incomplete, and the Tigers had the win.
Troup visits region-leading Carver next week before taking a week off before the showdown with LaGrange on Nov. 13.
Troup finishes the regular season with a game at Jordan on Nov. 20.