The five-overtime affair at Hughes-Spalding Stadium in Atlanta is certain to go down as one of those legendary games that will be talked about for years to come in Trojan football lore. And even though second-seeded Carrollton (8-4) suffered a gut-wrenching, 43-37 setback to the second-ranked War Eagles (11-1), no one from the Trojan Nation is hanging their head about the way the team performed.
Both teams left everything they had on the field, and it’s a shame that someone had to see their season end in such spectacular, yet heartbreaking fashion.
“In the overtime period, being able to perform under pressure like that — matching score for score and making the stop when we had to — I mean, it was fun, it was exciting. I think the fans should have had to pay double to see that much football. It was fun and exciting. It’s just too bad it didn’t come our way,” Teague said.
“I mean, I’ve never been to five overtimes before, no. I’ve been in a lot of big games and a lot of exciting games, but that one will definitely rank up there as one of the tops in my 28 years.”
And with the Trojans and War Eagles now in the same classification, it could become a playoff tradition for these two storied programs to square off each November or December. But one thing is for sure following Friday night’s thriller — it’s going to be a tough act to follow.
“Yeah, but we’ll look forward to the opportunity to play them again,” Teague said.
Going to the Gun
Facing the No. 1 defense in Class AAAA, the Trojans threw a wrinkle into their offensive game plan by basically abandoning the Wing-T and going strictly from the gun all night, outside of when they got inside the 10-yard line. It’s something Teague credited to his offensive assistants, as well as the players for executing when called upon.
Junior quarterback Wil Garrett thrived in the Carrollton passing attack, completing 23-of-38 attempts for 255 yards with no interceptions, connecting with five different receivers in the process. Juniors Trey Chivers and Andrew Turner both hauled in eight receptions, with Chivers picking up 95 yards through the air to go along with 96 yards and two touchdowns on the ground, while Turner had 76 receiving yards. Garrett also ran for two touchdowns against the vaunted War Eagle ‘D’ that entered the game yielding just 7.8 points per contest.
Fighting through the Flu
Along with battling the No. 2 team in the state, the Trojans were also fighting a flu-bug that spread during the week and into Friday. Freshman standout wing back Jarvis Terrell was a last-minute casualty on Friday, while several other key players endured through a tough week and then five overtimes, to boot.
“We had about probably five or six guys that had gotten the flu and were trying to work through it. It was a shame that Jarvis wasn’t able to play. I’m really proud of Malik [Sheppard]. Malik just really played through a lot of adversity, and really played well [Friday] night. And then Jake Sanders had battled it all week long. He didn’t miss a practice and fought his way through it,” Teague said. “There were others that were sick, too. Andrew Turner had been sickly, Turner Martin had been sickly. There were just several of them that battled through it. So in typical Trojan fashion, they found a way to keep working.”
One for the Ages
Although the Trojans came up on the short end of the stick by the time all was finally said and done late Friday night, this group will forever be linked to this game — and just how special a game it was. And while it’s going to sting for a bit, especially for the seniors, Teague believes it will eventually sink in for the departing players and also make the returning guys even hungrier.
“I really haven’t talked to any of them [Saturday], but I’m sure for the seniors it’s bittersweet. They’re probably spending [Friday] night and [Saturday] thinking about, ‘What if?’ I think for the younger kids, I think it’s a great momentum-builder going into next year and inspiration to work hard this offseason, which we always do anyway,” Teague said. “For the seniors, I’m sure it will take a while before they’re able to totally appreciate how much they’ve accomplished this year.”
With nine returning starters on offense, the Trojans will definitely be back on the AAAA state title radar again next year, though Teague said there will be some big holes to fill on the other side of the ball.
“Now defensively, we’ll have our work cut out for us. I think the kicking game, we should be very sound. We have a lot of great experience there. But defensively, we’re going to have to replace half the unit, especially on the defensive front. That’s going to be interesting to see how that develops,” he said.
As the 11th-year Trojan coach reflects on Friday night and the 2012 season, it’s one he’ll remember with great pride for how the group overcame its fair share of obstacles and gave everything it had down to the final whistle.
“I’m just so proud of these kids. In my 28 years, I don’t think I’ve ever been through anything like it. Like I said, out of 22 starting positions, 17 of them have had to miss at least one game. [Friday] morning I get the call at 8 in the morning that Jarvis Terrell’s got the flu and out. Malik Sheppard had the flu and played with it anyway. The resilience of this team, the coaches and the kids, they gave everything they had all season long,” Teague said.
Historic Year for Heard
Tim Barron would have loved to move on to Game 13 following Friday night, but the Heard County High School football coach was also proud of everything his team accomplished this season in Franklin — tying a school-record with 11 wins and winning the first state playoff game since 2006, along with the third region title in program history.
The big thing for the Braves (11-1) is they return the bulk of their talent at the skill positions, and Barron is hopeful Friday night’s 52-21 second-round Class AA state playoff setback to Greater Atlanta Christian will further motivate this bunch moving forward.
“Right. You know, coming into it, I felt like we were battle-tested. We had played a close game against Bowdon, a close game against Manchester, a close game against Callaway. I thought we’d respond. But at the state level, we’ve got to take a look at where they’re at and look at where we want to be,” Barron said.
And while the core unit returns, the Heard County coach said what his seniors brought to the table day-in and day-out is something you can’t teach.
“The senior group that we had, they had a lot of intangibles, as far as leadership, character. They were smart football players. We’ve got talent coming back, but it’s those intangibles that you worry about,” Barron said.