“We played a consistent ballgame and the guys were a little bit more focused,” Anniston coach Eddie Bullock said. “That’s all we really concentrate on. People talk about the ability we’ve got, but you can have all the ability in the world. If you’re not disciplined, not focused, (it doesn’t matter).”
It was obvious from the get go that the Bulldogs were going to lean on Troymaine Pope’s legs to pace their offensive attack.
Pope delivered, finishing with 275 yards rushing on 13 carries. The junior used his speed to score four touchdowns — all coming on runs of more than 25 yards.
Pope gave all the credit to his teammates after the game.
“My offensive line, my receivers, they blocked for me,” Pope said. “I give it all to them. Without my offensive line, I couldn’t do what I do.”
Bullock said Pope worked hard in the off-season and has earned his role as Anniston’s feature back.
“He is real focused this year,” Bullock said. “He came to me and said that he had to step up and that he wanted to be a leader. He asked me to help him, and I did that in the weight room and with the conditioning, and helping him out with his fumbling. You know he had a fumbling problem last year. He took care of the rest. His natural ability just took over with the rest.”
Alexandria struggled to move the ball all night long. The duo of Dar Harper and DeAntae Owens didn’t have much room to run against Anniston’s stingy defense.
“Anniston had a real good team on both sides of the ball,” Alexandria coach Frank Tucker said. “They are very athletic and are also well coached. That tail back (Pope) is a great tail back. He made some excellent runs. We had some people there at times, but he still made the runs.
“Defensively, No. 20 (Quinton Royal) and 41 (Corey Johnson) were just great players. They’ve got a real good team. They are well coached, and we just couldn’t match up.”
Anniston opened the scoring on its second drive. Josiah Atkins found Pope open and he picked up 26 yards on first down. On the next play, Atkins faked a handoff, found a hole and scampered 28 yards into the end zone, putting the Bulldogs up by six after Frederick Johnson missed the extra point.
Then Pope took over, scoring the game’s next four touchdowns on runs of 26, 52, 90 and 53 yards.
On his final two touchdown runs, Pope looked to be contained but cut to the outside and used his speed and agility to outrun the defense.
“He has big-play potential,” Tucker said of Pope. “I haven’t seen the film, but I think we had some guys there to make the play, but he was just such a good back. Good backs make plays even when they’re not supposed to.”