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Tigers make it five in a row

By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY

Daily News

It was all about the number five for the Troup Tigers.

Troup, which hadn’t played in three weeks, outlasted the rival LaGrange Grangers 14-7 on Saturday night at Callaway Stadium.

It was not only the fifth consecutive win this season, but it was Troup’s fifth straight victory over LaGrange, all with head coach Tanner Glisson at the helm.

Troup (5-3 overall), which hasn’t lost since dropping its first three games of the season, improved to 5-1 in Region 2-AAAA heading into the final week of the regular season.

If Troup beats Jordan on Tuesday, it will play Carver with first place in the region on the line on Saturday at 1 p.m. at Kinnett Stadium.

Considering it had been so long since the Tigers had played, they were predictably eager to get on the field, especially since they were playing their fiercest rival.

“It’s the most excited anybody’s ever been for a game,” said Royce White, a senior offensive lineman for the Tigers. “It’s a rivalry game, and we got back out there after three weeks. Everybody was ready.”

The offensive game plan wasn’t a complex one for the Tigers.

The Tigers felt they could run the ball effectively, and they did that, amassing 356 rushing yards while averaging more than six yards per attempt.

Troup also got the job done defensively against a LaGrange offense that has been averaging more than 30 points per game.

The Grangers scored on a 75-yard touchdown pass from Jaylan Brown to Kobe Jones late in the third quarter, but they didn’t get much done offensively outside of that, and standout running back Kale Gibbs was limited to 29 yards after running for at least 100 yards in every game he’d played in this season.

Senior linebacker Zy Varner led the Tigers with 10 tackles including two for loss, and defensive lineman Jacob Bailey added nine tackles.

“We played a really complete game,” Glisson said. “We gave up the blocked punt, we gave up the 70-yard touchdown, but I felt like we were pretty much in control the whole time.”

The Tigers have qualified for the state playoffs for the fifth straight year, and if they win on Tuesday, they’ll head into the final game of the regular season with an opportunity to play for a  region title for the fourth time in five years.

“We felt like people have kind of overlooked us a little bit because we started off the way we started,” Glisson said. “We still think we’re a good football team. We just wanted to come out there and impose our will.”

A strength of the Troup offense this season has been its running game, and that was on full display at Callaway Stadium on Saturday night.

Freshman quarterback Taeo Todd, and running backs AJ Tucker, Anthony Ferguson and Navontae Moss, proved difficult to stop, with a veteran and talented offensive line consistently opening holes. Moss scored both of Troup’s touchdowns on runs of six and three yards.

White, who has committed to play football at Memphis, felt it was all about effort.

“I see our freshman quarterback trucking people,” White said. “You can tell that everybody really wanted. I think that’s what it came down to. Who wanted it more.”

It also helps that, with three capable running backs, fatigue is never an issue.

“We can have a fresh back every play, every drive,” Tucker said.

While plenty went right for the Tigers, they was some suspense late.

After the Grangers scored to make it a 14-7 game, they blocked a punt and recovered the ball at the Tigers’ 30-yard line.

Troup’s defense stood firm, though, and LaGrange ended up punting after losing five yards on the possession.

Following a Troup punt, LaGrange again had the ball with an opportunity to tie with a touchdown and an extra point.

Once again Troup’s defense made a stand, and LaGrange turned it over on downs following an incomplete pass on fourth down.

With 5:28 to play, Troup’s vaunted running attack went to work.

The Tigers picked up a pair of first downs, and they were able to run a pair of kneel-down plays after that and run out the clock.

Tucker had an 8-yard run on fourth-and-one to keep that final drive alive, and Todd’s 6-yard run for a first down put the game away.

Early on, it was the Grangers getting in position to possibly take the early lead.

LaGrange made it to the Troup 6-yard-line on its opening possession, but a lost fumbled ended that scoring chance.

The Tigers responded by driving from their own 16-yard-line to the Grangers’ 35, but a failed fourth-down play ended that possession.

The Grangers went backward, and when Brown was sacked on third down, they were forced to punt from their 1-yard line.

The Tigers took over at the 18-yard line following a short punt, and they scored four plays later on a Moss 6-yard touchdown run as the first quarter ended, and Cody Bray made the first of his two extra points to give his team a 7-0 lead.

The Tigers had another scoring opportunity on their final possession of the second quarter when they made it to the Grangers’ 31-yard line, and the half ended with Buddy Wortham nearly coming up with a catch in the back of the end zone.

The Tigers began the opening possession of the second half from their own 22-yard line, and they went to work, driving 78 yards for the touchdown.

Ferguson got things started with runs of five, four and 19 yards, and Todd had back-to-back runs of 19 yards and 20 yards to get the ball deep in LaGrange territory.

Moss capped the drive with a 3-yard touchdown run, and Troup led 14-0 with 9:44 to play in the third quarter.

Later in the third quarter the Tigers were on the move again, but they lost a fumble, and the Grangers took over at their own 25-yard line.

On the next play, Kobe Jones got behind the defense, and Jaylan Brown dropped the ball into his hands for the 75-yard touchdown.

Micah Prophett made the extra point to cut Troup’s lead to 14-7 with 1:21 to play in the third quarter.

The Grangers, with momentum on their side, then blocked a punt and recovered the ball at the 30-yard line, but they couldn’t do anything against the Tigers’ stout defense.

Freshman Parker Shattuck’s punt pinned the Tigers on their own 10-yard line, and they picked up one first downs before they had to punt.

The Grangers took over at their own 32-yard line with 6:32 to play, and they collected one first down on an 11-yard completion from Brown to Magic Johnson.

As it had done throughout the game, though, Troup’s defense got the job done, and Brown was pressured and threw an incomplete pass on fourth down.

The Tigers didn’t give the ball back to the Grangers, and when the clock hit zero, they enjoyed a hard-earned win, although they also knew there wasn’t much time for celebration with another game coming up in three days.

“We’ve got to flush it, and get ready to play again Tuesday,” Glisson said. “That was physical, so we’ve got to get in there and see who’s beat up and see who can go.”

OF NOTE: Zy Varner led Troup’s defense with 10 tackles with two for loss and a sack against LaGrange. Jacob Bailey had nine tackles, Qua Birdsong had eight tackles with three for loss and a sack, and Christopher Hilton had seven tackles with two for loss and a sack. TJ Mitchell had six tackles with a forced fumble, and Nazir Easter had six tackles.