By Kevin Eckleberry Sports Editor
November 11, 2013
The Shaw Raiders were hanging tough.
As the Shaw and Troup teams headed to the locker room at the half of Friday’s game, the outcome was still very much in doubt with the Tigers hanging on to a 27-20 lead.
As they’ve done so much throughout the season, though, when the second half rolled around, the Tigers took over.
The Tigers outscored the Raiders 20-0 in the second half, and they dominated the action in every way possible.
A defense that gave up a lot of big plays in the first half overwhelmed Shaw’s offense in the second half.
And Troup’s offense, with its powerful running game, steam-rolled Shaw’s defense.
As Troup quarterback Will Smith put it, “we just wanted to keep the gas pedal down, and not let up.”
In the final four games of the season, the Tigers have done a great job of keeping that pedal down.
After back-to-back losses to Sandy Creek and Carrollton, Troup finished the regular season with four straight wins.
For awhile, Shaw seemed intent on ending Troup’s winning streak at three.
The Raiders scored on three long passing plays in the first half, and while the defensive backs were beaten on those plays, head coach Lynn Kendall felt a lack of a pass rush was the biggest problem.
“From a defensive standpoint, you can cover a guy, but you can’t cover him forever,” Kendall said.
At the half, Kendall said “I challenged them” to start getting to the quarterback.
“We really picked up that pass rush,” Kendall said. “Devonte Cofield, and Chad Magdalena, who got the first start of his varsity career actually, played very well for us on the defensive line.”
Offensively, the Tigers had it working all night.
“Daryl Dunlap, and Dre Towns, and Devonte Swanson, and Mess Bonner, they all ran well,” Kendall said. “And Will ran well, and Dexter Shealey comes in (at quarterback), and I’m real proud of the way Dexter came in and had several good runs. That’s good to see.”
Swanson and Dunlap each had a pair of touchdown runs, Towns had one scoring run, and Smith threw scoring passes to Travis Johnson and Quaydo Florence.
“We opened up the pass game, and (Smith) had some nice balls thrown,” Kendall said.
Kendall said one of the highlights of Friday’s game was getting senior C.J. Butler on the field.
Butler doesn’t usually play, but Kendall said he has been a huge part of the team, and as a reward he got the start on Friday at tight end.
“Another guy I’m real proud of is, we started him as a senior, and that’s C.J. Butler,” Kendall said. “C.J. got his first start at tight end. And that was real special for the team. C.J. hasn’t missed a practice or a workout in four years. Our team, we are so supportive of him. And later in the game he got in and got some more reps.”
When the dust cleared, the Tigers had a comfortable win, and they closed the regular season with a 6-4 record.
They’ve won each of their past four games by at least 19 points, and there’s no doubt they’re playing their best football of the season at the moment.
Troup, the third-place team from Region 5-AAAA, will look to keep it going when it visits Gilmer County (8-2) for a first-round game on Friday.
Gilmer County is the second-place team from Region 7-AAAA.