TROUP — The Troup offense is doing a backtrack in hopes of making forward progress.
Three weeks into his new job, East Texas coaching legend Dennis Alexander rallied together his ground troops and introduced an old stable around Troup: the I-formation featuring two backs.
Troup reached the state championship game in 2004 under Andy Griffin using a power run game. The Tigers transitioned to the spread in recent years under Chuck Griffin, who resigned in June for a job in Mobile, Ala.
“There are some great teams out there in shotgun,” Alexander said. “But for us, it’s going to be (important) to run the ball and be physical.”
Alexander knows what it takes to field a winner, evidenced by his 323 career wins ranking him fourth all-time in Texas high school football history. Troup marks the fifth stop in a legendary coaching career for Alexander, with previous stints in Hughes Springs, Daingerfield, Henderson and most recently Harleton. Alexander coached Daingerfield to three state title games, with championships in 1983 and 1985. Harleton went 80-35 in Alexander’s 10 years on the job, highlighted by a trip to the state quarterfinals in 2004.
The 2004 season went down as the second-best in school history behind only the state championship from 1973. The state-finalist team in 2004 played smash-mouth football with running backs such as Chris Davis, Ra’Shaad Gilliam and Jarriel Norman.
Last year’s 6-5 record marked Troup’s first winning season in five years.
“Coach (Andy) Griffin was here then with great backs during that era,” said Alexander, who has coached 42 seasons. “I believe you have to run the ball. That’s what we want to be able to do.”
Troup returns one of its main guns in running back Seth Gibson (5-8, 180, Sr.), back after stepping off more than 1,400 yards and 13 touchdowns during an all-district campaign. Michael Davis (6-0, 200, Sr.) aids the run game as well after an all-district season on defense last year.
The job of handing of the ball falls to Blake Lynch (6-2, 180, So.), who played on the junior varsity as a freshman.
“The system is new to Blake because all he’d played is shotgun,” Alexander said. “Getting under center is a change. But our kids have taken to it well. We’ve got some talented backs, good linemen that like to come off the ball and also some good receivers, so we’re going to combine some things from the gun also.”
Alexander likes the attitude of the players during the early phase of the transition. Troup competed in its first scrimmage Friday against Spring Hill, with one more tune-up scheduled for Thursday at San Augustine before starting the regular season on Friday, Aug. 31 versus Quinlan-Ford in Bullard.
“We’ve got some talented players, but we changed a lot of things,” said Alexander, whose team returns 16 starters. “Now we’d like to win football games. That’s a little more fun.”