After the Columbus Blue Devils scored a touchdown in the fourth quarter, Thursday’s game at Callaway Stadium was deadlocked at 20-20.
Troup was in danger of being dealt a devastating region loss to a Columbus team that was not only winless, but hadn’t even been competitive in a game this season.
The Tigers needed a spark, and they got it from Dunlap, who had a remarkable night from his running-back position.
He ran for more than 300 yards and scored four touchdowns, including two scores in the critical closing moments.
A little more than three minutes after Columbus tied it, Dunlap put the Tigers back on top with a 30-yard touchdown run.
After a Columbus punt, Dunlap put an exclamation point on his amazing performance with a 24-yard touchdown run with 26 seconds left in the game, and the Tigers went on to win 34-20.
The Tigers (2-5 overall) evened their Region 5-AAAA record at 2-2, keeping them firmly in the playoff picture in the region.
Dunlap was the undisputed star of the game, averaging around 18 yards per carry en route to his 300-yard night.
Dunlap had touchdown runs of 66, 28, 30 and 24 yards, all while playing most of the game on defense as well.
Dunlap had a tough time of it the week before against Carrollton when he had some first-half fumbles, but he bounced back in a huge way in a game Troup had to have.
“I really wanted to make up for last week’s game up in Carrollton,” Dunlap said. “I had a horrible game. I had to come back strong and finish all the way through.”
Troup head coach Lynn Kendall said Dunlap did a terrific job of recovering from the Carrollton disappointment.
“Daryl bounced back from a very tough week last week against Carrollton,” Kendall said. “It would have been easy for a kid to say, woe is me. He came back with a real positive attitude Monday. We had a short week of practice, and tonight, he was eager to run the ball.”
The more Dunlap carried the ball, the stronger he seemed to get.
At the end of the game, he was picking up huge chunks of yardage against a Columbus defense that was helpless to stop him.
“I thought his conditioning was good,” Kendall said. “He’s so strong later in the game. And on top of that, he’s playing defense.”
Dunlap said the running plays worked just like they were drawn up.
“The holes opened up perfectly,” Dunlap said. “We executed.”
The Tigers needed Dunlap’s heroics because the game was much more competitive than anticipated.
Columbus (0-7, 0-4) came into the game having been outscored by an average score of 46-7, and that number was even more one-sided in the three region games.
On this night, though, Columbus found a way to not only keep things close, but nearly pull off what would have been an epic victory.
When Ivan Rome scored on a 12-yard run with 7:45 remaining, Columbus found itself in a 20-20 game.
Fortunately for the Tigers, they had Dunlap on their side.
After Columbus tied it, the Tigers took over at their own 32, and they went 68 yards in six plays, with Dunlap getting the ball for four of those plays. Dunlap had a 26-yard run to put the ball into Columbus territory, and then on a third-and-long play, he scored on a 30-yard run.
Will Bates’ extra point, his third of four on the night, gave Troup a 27-20 lead with 4:39 remaining.
Troup’s defense then made a stand, forcing a Columbus three-and-out.
Lemonta Truitt returned the ensuing punt for a touchdown, but the score was wiped away because of a penalty on the return.
After taking over at the Columbus 43, Troup moved it down to the 24-yard line before the drive appeared to stall.
On a fourth-down play, though, Dunlap not only picked up the first down, but he made it all the way to the end zone for a 24-yard touchdown run with 26 seconds remaining.
Columbus had time to run a couple of plays before the clock hit zero, and Troup had the win.
Dunlap’s final touchdown capped a back-and-forth affair.
Columbus struck first, driving 64 yards in six plays to take an early 6-0 lead with 7:53 left in the first quarter.
Ricky Frazier came through and blocked the extra-point attempt.
It took Troup two plays to pull even.
On a second-down play, Dunlap took a handoff from quarterback Will Smith and burst through the line and went right down the middle of the field for a 66-yard touchdown run.
The extra-point attempt was missed, and it was a 6-6 game with seven minutes left in the first quarter.
Moments later, Troup’s defense got into the act.
Troup defensive back Malcolm Tatum came up with an interception on a tipped ball, and he returned it about 30 yards for the touchdown, and Bates converted the extra point to put Troup up 13-6.
Troup almost added to its lead later in the first quarter when Frazier nearly scored on a long run, but a Columbus player knocked the ball loose, and it went through the end zone for a touchback.
Frazier went 55 yards on the play, but he needed 56 yards to score.
Neither team did much offensively the rest of the half, and Troup took a 13-6 lead to the locker room.
Troup’s lead was wiped away moments into the second half.
On the first play from scrimmage, Rome raced 68 yards for the touchdown, and the extra point tied the game at 13-13.
Troup regained the lead later in the third quarter thanks to Dunlap.
The Tigers began the possession at their own 14-yard line, but Dunlap ripped off a 58-yard run, and on the next play, he scored from 28 yards out, and Troup was on top 20-13 with five minutes left in the third quarter.
Columbus responded with a touchdown on its first possession of the fourth quarter.
The Blue Devils went 82 yards in eight plays, with Rome’s 12-yard run and the ensuing extra point making it a tie game once again.
Columbus appeared to have momentum at that point, but Troup had Dunlap, and that was the difference.
Kendall also said Smith, the sophomore who has started at quarterback since Day 1 this season, had a nice game as well.
“Credit to Will Smith our quarterback,” Kendall said. “He gets better every game, and he’s becoming a tremendous leader for us. I’m very proud of him.”
Troup will be on the road against Fayette County next Friday.