LAGRANGE – They gave the fans a show.
The Troup Tigers and LaGrange Grangers resumed their rivalry on Friday night, with a near packed house looking on at Callaway Stadium.
After falling behind by 23 points in the third quarter, the Grangers fought back and got within 11 in the closing moments, but it was the Tigers holding on for a 37-26 victory.
It was the continuation of what has been a remarkable turnaround story for the Tigers, who won just one game last season, but have strung together six consecutive wins this season to improve to 6-1 overall, and 3-0 in Region 5-AAAA.
LaGrange was hoping to use a win over Troup as a springboard to a strong finish to the season, but it didn’t happen.
The Grangers (1-6 overall) fell to 1-3 in the region, and they’ll need wins over Sandy Creek and Chapel Hill in their final two games to have any chance of making the playoffs.
LaGrange made things interesting late.
The Tigers seemed to be in control when Montez Crowe threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to Chanse Hill in the third quarter to make it a 37-14 game.
LaGrange rallied, with LaPerion Perry throwing a touchdown pass to Jamari Trash while also scoring on a 50-yard run to make it an 11-point game.
LaGrange made one final push in the closing moments.
Senior Jalen Wilson made a remarkable catch in coverage on fourth-and-20, and LaGrange had the ball on the Troup 4-yard with less than two minutes remaining.
Troup’s King Mwikuta then came up with an interception in the end zone to end the suspense.
Troup head coach Tanner Glisson said it wasn’t his team’s best performance, but it was good enough.
“We didn’t play our best and still won the ballgame, and that’s important,” Glisson said. “It’s just very uncharacteristic of us. That’s not what we want to look like. There were a lot of miscues, jumping offsides, blocking in the back, getting emotional. And that’s frustrating, because we’ve worked hard on those things. We’ve got to learn that we can do that. When the games get bigger, we’ve got to be dialed in more and more.”
LaGrange head coach Dialleo Burks was proud of the way his team hung in there and had a chance at the end.
“They left it all on the field tonight. I’m proud of them,” Burks said. “We didn’t like the outcome, but you want to see your guys fight. I’ve got to give it to Troup. They stayed with it. We had a momentum swing there at the end, but we just didn’t have the time.”
Crowe, who is having an exceptional junior season, threw touchdown passes to freshman Kobe Hudson, Ken Truitt and Hill, and Camren Russell had a touchdown run.
Troup also scored on defense when Joko Willis returned an interception for a touchdown early in the second half, and Carson Wreyford made a 35-yard field goal.
For LaGrange, Perry was sensational, making big plays with his legs and his right arm.
Perry threw two touchdown passes to Thrash, and he also had pair of scoring runs.
On numerous occasions, it looked like Perry was going to be thrown for a loss in the backfield, but he found a way to get out in the open and make big plays.
The night belonged to Troup, though, which has put itself in contention to compete for a region championship.
If Troup can beat Cedartown and Central-Carroll the next two weeks, it would play unbeaten and defending state-champion Cartersville on Nov. 4 for the region title.
While it wasn’t always smooth sailing, Mwikuta said the players had no doubts about the outcome.
“I believed in my team, and I knew we could do it,” Mwikuta said. “You’re going to have ups and downs. All you have to do is execute, and everything will come out.”
Troup struck first, with Russell’s 6-yard touchdown run capping a 65-yard drive in the second quarter, and Wreyford made the extra point to make it a 7-0 game.
LaGrange answered with a touchdown of its own in the second quarter.
After Trash intercepted a pass in the end zone, LaGrange went 80 yards for the touchdown, and Perry finished things off with a 17-yard scoring run, and Austin Stamper’s extra point deadlocked the score at 7-7 with 7:05 left in the first half.
It took the Tigers two plays to reclaim the lead.
On his first pass attempt after throwing an interception, Crowe dropped a perfect pass into the hands of Hudson for a 69-yard touchdown, and Troup led 14-7 with 5:56 to play in the half.
The Grangers came right back, with Perry leading the team on an 80-yard scoring drive that lasted just four plays.
Perry had runs of 55 and 13 yards, and he then found Thrash for an 8-yard touchdown pass, and the extra point made it a 14-14 game with 4:40 to play in the half.
Troup was stopped on its ensuing possession, but Wreyford’s 55-yard punt backed LaGrange up to its own 9-yard line.
After the defense forced a three-and-out, the Tigers got the ball at the Grangers’ 44-yard line following a punt.
Crowe tossed a 19-yard completion to Hudson, and three plays later, he hit Truitt for a 21-yard touchdown, and Troup led 20-14 with 30 seconds left in the half.
Moments later, Kevin Martin picked off a pass, and that led to Wreyford’s 35-yard field goal with just three seconds left in the half, and Troup led 23-14.
The Tigers started the second half with a bang, with Willis, a sophomore defensive lineman, picking off a pass and rumbling about 20 yards for the touchdown, and it was a 30-14 game.
On its next possession, Troup found the end zone again, with Crowe capping a 79-yard drive with a 12-yard touchdown pass to Hill.
With 3:59 left in the third quarter, Troup led 37-14.
LaGrange wasn’t done.
Perry completed a 49-yard pass to Amad Ogletree to get the ball deep in Troup territory, and he then threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to Thrash.
The two-point attempt failed, and LaGrange trailed 37-20 with 1:23 to play in the third quarter.
LaGrange’s defense then forced a punt, and Perry ripped off a 50-yard touchdown run, and when the extra-point attempt was blocked, Troup’s lead was down to 11 with 11:09 to play.
LaGrange continued the momentum moments later when Rico Dunn reocvered a fumble at the Troup 30.
The Grangers couldn’t take advantage of that turnover, though, and the possession ended when Nick Ligon tackled Perry in the backfield on fourth down.
LaGrange got the ball back with 4:23 to play, still trailing by 11.
On fourth-and-20, Perry heaved the ball downfield, and Wilson made the spectacular catch in coverage inside the Troup 10.
Perry was hit late on the play and had to leave the game, and LaGrange had the ball at the 4-yard line with the completion and the penalty.
Sophomore quarterback Jakoby Smith had a 3-yard run on first down, and LaGrange was one yard away from getting within five.
On the next play, though, Mwikuta read the play and got the interception, preserving the hard-earned win for Troup.
OF NOTE: For more on Friday’s game, see Monday’s sports section. And for more photos, check out facebook.com./LDNsports
Reach Kevin Eckleberry at (706) 884-7311 or on Twitter @lagrangesports