Troymaine Pope’s MCL is fine.
Sylacauga’s defense and Aniston’s 22-16 win can attest to that.
In the Bulldogs’ very first play from scrimmage, Pope took the handoff and went behind the offensive line, which was surging left. The hole never materialized, so he planted his left foot hard into the ground and took off like a bottle rocket leaving Aggie defenders grasping at the wind he left behind.
“I had no worries that he was going to be fine,” Anniston coach Eddie Bullock said. “He would have been fine last year if we’d won another game (in the playoffs). Might have been a little sore, but he’d been fine.”
Pope certainly showed no ill effects from injury that halted his rushing total at 1,895 yards and 30 touchdowns.
He had some long runs, and added two touchdowns. On the first, a 3-yarder, he beat the defense to the left pylon. On the second, a Sylacauga defensive end could have prevented it had it not been for a fierce Pope stiff-arm, wrangling out of the would-be loss and darting into the endzone from 12 yards out.
Anniston’s Jamar Jones posted the first touchdown off an interception.
Anniston posted a 14-3 lead and after their third touchdown of the night, Bullock said he called the dogs off, guarding against any injuries so his charges could have a good showing Thursday night at Erwin.
“The main thing I wanted to do tonight was get some guys feet wet,” Bullock said. “Some of those guys had never been in the heat of the battle.
“I wasn’t worried about Pope and most of my defense.”
Spencer Howard is one of those.
The junior quarterback sailed his first throw high, but settled down to complete a handful of out routes.
Bullock said it was a good start, and looked to challenge Howard with more in-game situations as the season progresses.
“You know me, I’m old school,” Bullock said. “I’m going to run the ball about 70 percent of the time.
“But I want to get to where we can throw some deep routes and stretch the field — because I’ve got some guys that can do that, and Howard is going to be able to do that for us.”
While most went right, Bullock said there were still things that he’d like to see improve.
With linemen Dontavious Blair, Isaiah Riggins and Chad Anderson back, there is still two newcomers, and Bullock said that unit has to gel to become successful.
Bran Strickland is the sports editor for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3570 or follow him on Twitter @bran_strickland.