By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
The Troup Tigers were rolling.
With a hard-fought 16-12 home win over Shaw on Oct. 23, the Tigers had won four consecutive games, and they were 4-1 in Region 2-AAAA heading into a massive road game against the unbeaten Carver Tigers.
In 2020, though, tomorrow is not promised when it comes to sports because of the protocols put in place by Covid-19.
As Troup was preparing for its showdown with Carver, some positive Covid-19 tests at the school had major ramifications for the football team.
Troup’s game with Carver originally scheduled for Oct. 30 not only had to be postponed, but head coach Tanner Glisson announced that all team activities would be suspended for an entire week since so many players were unavailable because of quarantine procedures.
It was a challenging time, and taking a week off during a football season is hardly ideal, but the show goes on, and that’s good news for the players and coaches who have worked so hard to get to this point.
The players returned to practice, and Troup will finally get to play another game when it faces the rival LaGrange Grangers on Friday night at Callaway Stadium.
It will be Troup’s first game in three weeks, and it’ll be the start of a busy stretch of games to close the regular season.
After the LaGrange game, Troup turns around and travels to Memorial Stadium in Columbus four days later to play Jordan on Tuesday.
Troup then ends the regular season with the make-up game against Carver on Saturday, Nov. 21 in Columbus, and the state playoffs begin the following week.
“We’re hoping to finish strong,” said Tanner Glisson, Troup’s sixth-year head coach. “It’s just so unpredictable. There have been times where we have lost whole position groups You can be out there and one whole group is missing, and you’re figuring out how to play football without this particular group. But I’m sure everybody else is going through something similar.”
It has, for the Tigers and every other football team, been an unusual time to be sure.
Practice began in June with all sorts of restrictions in place, and the start of the regular season was pushed back two weeks by the Georgia High School Association.
Once the season began there was also the understanding that games could be postponed and that players could be sidelined, and Troup has dealt with that, as have so many other teams.
“It seems like there’s been three different seasons,” Glisson said. “We had summertime where we were trying to get going with the protocols, and then you play some games, and then you take weeks off. It seems like it’s been cut up, so we’ll see. We’ll go out there Friday night and see what we can do, and try to play a clean game as much as possible.”
As stressful and unpredictable as things have been, at least there is a season, something that was far from guaranteed during the uncertain summer months.
“At first I thought we weren’t going to have a season,” said linebacker Zy Varner, who is having a big senior season. “It feels real special (to be playing).”
The goal now is to keep the momentum going after the three-week break without a game.
When the players and coaches returned from the unexpected and unwanted week off from practice, they knew there couldn’t be any wasted days.
Jace Godwin, a senior defensive back who has been starting since he was a sophomore, was aware of how important it was to make the most of every minute of practice time.
“We had to keep the energy up. We had to keep the momentum,” Godwin said. “We couldn’t have a bad week. We had to keep up the intensity.”
Another one of the senior leaders, running back Navontae Moss, said “we’ve been practicing hard, working hard, so we’re ready to get back out there.”
Moss added that he and the other veterans “make sure the team’s ready, make sure all the young guys are ready.”
The Tigers will need to be ready to play three games in eight days, and Glisson and the other coaches have done their best to prepare the players for that challenge.
“There’s no blueprint for it,” Glisson said. “It’s something that’s never been done before. You try fundamentally to get everybody on the same page. You’re trying to work on your depth. You’re working the number one kickoff team, the number two kickoff team, the number three kickoff team. You don’t know who will be there and who won’t. You’re not really changing a whole lot, it’s just that you’re trying to build up your depth just in case.”
Glisson, fully aware of the challenges ahead, is nonetheless grateful that there are at least games to prepare for.
“We’re excited to be playing,” Glisson said. “I’ve seen a lot of college-football games get canceled. So we’re thankful.”
OF NOTE: For a preview of the game against LaGrange, see Friday’s sports section.