Instant Classic: Troup wins top-5 battle with Callaway

Published 11:07 pm Friday, September 1, 2023

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Friday served as another instant classic in the Callaway-Troup rivalry as the Tigers captured a 21-13 win to tie the all-time series at seven games apiece.

“It was two good programs going head to head,” Troup coach Tanner Glisson said. “We are blessed in this county to have the programs that we have because this right here is good football.

“They are a very good football team, and we played well tonight, but we weren’t at our best.”

This was everything fans have come to expect from a game between these two teams — a grind it out, defensive slugfest. Callaway was looking for no consolation victories after the game.

“It’s very disappointing, every time you come up short it leaves you feeling that way,” Callaway coach Pete Wiggins said. “We will get back to work and get better. We have a good football team and now it’s up to us to respond.”

The game featured momentum swings like a pendulum despite the Cavaliers never holding a lead in the game. 

The first quarter was all defensive as neither team scored. Noah Dixon had a big interception on the Cavaliers first drive, but the Troup offense was unable to capitalize. 

Dixon had a big punt return to the Cavaliers 25-yard line toward the end of the second quarter, which set up a short field that ended with a Taeo Todd pass to Ben Taylor for a touchdown with 11:22 left to go in the first half. 

Callaway was knocking on the door a few times including early in the second quarter when DeShun Coleman hit Koryon Heard on a big pass play to get the Cavaliers inside the Tigers 35-yard line. The Cavaliers could not finish that drive with points, a recurring theme in the game.

“We had some real opportunities that we did not take advantage of tonight,” Wiggins said. 

With their offense stalling, the Cavalier defense responded when Johnathan Freeman got his hands on a Logan Sinkfield pass and returned it for a touchdown that tied the game with Greyson Batchelor’s extra point.

“Defensively, we were able to score, and any time your defense can score that is a big momentum play,” Wiggins said. “I feel like we were more physical in the second half and our defense settled in.”

Sinkfield was in for just one play at quarterback as Todd lost his helmet on the previous play and had to sub out. Sinkfield responded on defense later in the game, making a diving interception with 33 seconds left to go in the first half at the one-yard line to preserve the Tigers 14-7 lead going into the break.

“That’s Logan, nothing fazes him,” Glisson said. “Taeo lost his helmet, so we had to bring him in, and when Logan comes in the game we are not going to play scared. We are not going to just run the ball up the middle.

“He ended up redeeming himself with a big play.”

Troup was able to retake the lead after a long pass from Todd to Dixon set up a touchdown run from Todd himself. The Cavaliers had a big missed opportunity on the drive when an interception went right through a defender’s hands.

“We have to execute better in big situations,” Wiggins said. 

Callaway got its offense going in the second half, scoring on a long touchdown run from Coleman after a roughing the passer call earlier in the drive that wiped out an interception from Tyreon Smith. A missed extra point meant the the Tigers retained a one-point lead.

The Tigers defense was dominant all night long and has only allowed two touchdowns thorough three games as first-year defensive coordinator Quin Prather has his players flying around the field right now.

“We play hard, fly to the ball and coach Prather puts a good game plan together,” Glisson said. “We are very exited about the potential of our defense.”

The Tigers were able to give themselves some breathing room when Todd uncorked a deep touchdown pass to Smith with 10:26 left in the fourth quarter, Smith’s second deep touchdown catch in as many weeks.

“He’s very athletic and has made good plays with the ball in the air,” Glisson said. “He is still learning, and this is his first year really getting his feet wet with the varsity team. He is just a junior and we are very excited about his potential.”

The Cavaliers had another chance to get back into the game late when the Tigers turned the ball over on downs on the Callaway 42-yard line. 

Callaway got into Troup territory before turning the ball over on downs with 1:38 left in the game.

Troup iced the clock from there to improve to 3-0 for the second consecutive season. The Tigers will be on bye next week before traveling to take on region foe Whitewater on Sept. 15. 

“First game was a rivalry game and you never know how that is going to go and week two we expected to beat Hardaway,” Glisson said. “We were expecting to be tested tonight and we were, but I think we passed the test.”

Callaway falls to 1-1 on the season and will be right back in action next Friday when the team travels just up the road to take on Heard County in the Pulpwood Classic rivalry game. 

“We have to go back to work and keep doing what we do,” Wiggins said. “Heard County will be ready to play, so we have to go back to work quickly and make sure we don’t look at this loss for long.”