LAGRANGE – There was no yelling, no finger-pointing, no tossing of equipment for dramatic effect.
During halftime of Friday’s game between the Callaway Cavaliers and the Troup Tigers, Troup head coach Tanner Glisson just asked his players to come out and give it their best shot in the second half.
The first half couldn’t have gone much worse.
Callaway’s big-play offense moved the ball at will and scored five touchdowns, while Troup’s only points came on a Michael Young field goal.
As Troup’s players headed to their locker room, the scoreboard told the story.
It read Callaway 35, Troup 3.
“I told them at halftime, look guys, there’s not a whole lot I can say to fix it,” Glisson said. “I’m asking you to play hard for me. And I thought they did.”
Indeed they did.
The inspired Tigers outscored the Cavaliers 21-7 in the second half, and while there was never any realistic chance of winning the game after the difficult first half, it was a nice moment for a team that has had a difficult season.
Troup fell to 0-5 with the 42-24 loss, but the players will take some positive feelings into the off week.
“Coach just told us to fight,” senior quarterback Dexter Shealey said. “He came in the locker room and said to just keep fighting, and we just came together as a team.”
It has been a tough go of it for the Tigers this season, but Glisson said the effort continues to be there.
“These guys are resilient,” Glisson said. “Just because you get hit in the face by a bigger, stronger opponent doesn’t mean you stay down. They keep coming, they keep fighting. They just keep battling.”
From a Troup standpoint, there wasn’t a whole lot to feel good about in the first half of Friday’s game.
By the time the Cavaliers had run eight offensive plays, they had scored four touchdowns to take a 28-3 lead.
Troup had some offensive success in the first half, but drives kept stalling out.
On one first-half possession, the Tigers went all the way from their 35-yard line to the Cavaliers’ 3-yard line, but they came away without any points after a fourth-down play failed.
Later in the half the Tigers again made it into Callaway territory before they gave the ball back following an unsuccessful fourth-down play.
Even though the Tigers only had three points to show for it, they did move the ball in the first two quarters.
“We weren’t finishing,” Shealey said. “We were getting down there, but we couldn’t finish. We had penalties, false starts and all that was killing us. But we could move the ball.”
In the second half, the Tigers turned their scoring chances into points.
The Tigers recovered a fumble right at the start of the third quarter, and they had the ball inside the Cavaliers’ 30-yard line.
Shealey was sacked on first down, but Mess Bonner had an 8-yard run, and Camren Russell followed with a first-down run of five yards.
Tremayne Tolbert, who is mostly known for hauling in passes from his wide-receiver position, followed with a 10-yard touchdown run on an option play.
Tolbert fought through a number of tackle attempts to make it to the end zone, showing the kind of fight Glisson was asking for.
Young followed with the first of his three extra-point attempts, and Callaway’s lead was 35-10.
The Cavaliers were on the move on their ensuing possession when Troup’s defense came through with a big play.
After Callaway had a touchdown called back because of a penalty, Kelvin Thornton picked off a Braylon Sanders pass, and he returned it all the way for a touchdown.
As the Tigers cheered, a penalty flag lay mostly unnoticed, but soon enough everyone saw it.
Troup was called for a penalty on the return, so the touchdown was wiped out.
The Tigers still had the ball at the 25-yard line, though, and they drove 75 yards for the touchdown.
Shealey completed back-to-back passes to Travis Johnson and Tolbert of 11 and 16 yards, and three plays later, he hooked up with Russell for a 21-yard completion to the 4-yard line.
Two plays later, Bonner scored on a 3-yard run, and Callaway’s lead was 35-17.
The Cavaliers answered with a quick touchdown drive to go up 42-17, but the Tigers came right back with a one-play drive.
Shealey dropped a screen pass off to Bonner, and he out-raced Callaway’s defense for a 69-yard touchown with less than six minutes to play.
That turned out to be Troup’s final possession, since Callaway was able to run the clock out when it got the ball back.
It was a loss, and no one on the Troup side was happy about that, but Glisson said he did “appreciate our guys’ effort.”
“Our guys could have quit on our coaches tonight, and they didn’t quit on their coaches,” Glisson added. “I just told them I love them, and how much I appreciated them. If they wanted to quit, tonight was the night. They didn’t lay down.”
Reach Kevin Eckleberry at (706) 884-7311 or on Twitter @lagrangesports