It was homecoming at Sandy Creek High School as the Patriots welcomed the Troup County Tigers to town. Patriots alumni old and new arrived to see the marquee matchup in Region 5-AAAA.
Local media outlets, Channel 2 and Fox 5, were also in attendance to showcase the contest as the Game of the Week. However, an hour weather delay put a damper on things as Sandy Creek washed away a chance at victory.
After a hot start, the Patriots struggled to contain the Tigers. Troup dominated the line of scrimmage and made Sandy Creek one dimensional. They took away the running game and forced Patriots quarterback Matt Williams to beat them deep.
As a result, the Patriots offense sputtered. Defensively, they couldn’t contain Tigers quarterback Kobe Hudson. The junior signal caller, who has an offer from Auburn, orchestrated a downhill offensive attack as Troup cruised to a 35-21 victory.
The Tigers won their first region game and improved to 6-0 on the season. The Patriots fell to 3-2 overall. The Patriots get back to action against Chapel Hill next week.
“I was proud of our kids,” Patriots head coach Brett Garvin said. “I think they came out and sent a message to the rest of the region. We can play, but that (Troup) is a really good team.”
Sandy Creek started strong against Troup. On their third drive, Williams attacked the Tigers downfield. He hooked with Brian Branch on a 36-yard pass and fired a 12-yard touchdown strike to Ahmad Jackson. This gave the Patriots an early 7-0 lead.
On defense, the Patriots were flying to the ball. Junior defensive back Comanche Francisco had a big pass breakup on second down. Branch also intercepted Hudson with a one-handed grab in the end zone. Both plays kept the home crowd into the game.
“We played really good to start the first quarter,” Garvin said. “We told them all week that they were going to get some things and have some yardage.”
Midway through first quarter, Troup began to build momentum. Hudson utilized his legs to move the ball and pick up first downs. He exploited the Patriots front-seven with zone reads and quarterback draws.
Hudson rushed for 251 yards on 17 carries. He scored a 71-yard rushing touchdown and was good in the pocket. He completed 7 of 16 passes for 136 yards. Hudson threw 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions and found Jamari Thrash on an 80-yard touchdown to tie the game at 7-7.
Troup took control as they forced Sandy Creek into several three and outs. The defensive line, led by Alabama commit King Mwikuta and Joko Willis, stymied the Patriots attack. Williams couldn’t step up in the pocket and Rashad Amos didn’t have running room.
As a result, Troup got the ball in favorable field position. The Tigers connected on consecutive scoring drives as Hudson hit Jarell Smith on a 15-yard touchdown. He later scored up the middle on his quarterback scamper to give the Tigers a 21-7 lead.
“Kobe is a great football player and quarterback,” Garvin said. “King (Mwikuta) is a really good football player and we didn’t protect well. We hit them early with some stuff and we knew they were going to come out gunning.”
Troup took the lead into halftime as Sandy Creek looked for ways to slow down the locomotive offense. In the second half, the Tigers led a four-minute drive that exclusively featured running plays. Tigers halfback Trey Williams capped the possession with a 4-yard touchdown run as Troup jumped ahead 28-7.
With the game slipping away, Sandy Creek started to make mental mistakes. Their emotions got the best of them as the Patriots drew personal foul penalties, missed tackles and blew assignments.
“We started making some mistakes on offense and it translated over to mistakes on defense,” Garvin said. “Emotions got away from us and we got a couple penalties. We just couldn’t recover.”
After Troup added another touchdown, Sandy Creek scored again late in the fourth quarter. Quarterback Jamal Lewis hit Brian Branch for a 65-yard strike with 6:51 left in the game. On the next drive, Lewis found Stanford commit Nic Toomer on 49-yard touchdown to make it 35-21.
The Patriots wouldn’t draw closer as the Tigers ran out the clock to secure the victory. After the game, Garvin told the team that everything is still in front of them. Sandy Creek can still make the playoffs and even host a postseason game at home.
Sandy Creek will prepare this week for a tough road test against Chapel Hill. They will take positives from the loss and turn the page. Garvin said the matchup is another test in a tough region.
“They are going to watch the film,” Garvin said. “They are a good football team too and they played (Troup) pretty tough for a while. They are 4-1 and we are 3-2. We got to play as this is the SEC of the state. There is no easy week.”