Down by a field goal on the road at halftime, Stanhope Elmore knew it had no cause for concern.
It had two trump cards in its deck. A reliable defense perfectly capable of adjusting to Smiths Station’s weapons in the locker room and an electric ground game spearheaded by running back Antonio Trone.
“We knew that we were fine,” Stanhope coach Brian Bradford said. “We just told them not to panic, keep doing what they do. Defense is gonna play big for the second half, as the defense always does, and we didn’t think they would score again and we knew we would so we just told them to stick to the game plan and just keep playing and executing.”
The Mustangs’ defense held the Panthers to three second half points. Trone finished with a monstrous 229 yards and four touchdowns on just 24 carries.
Stanhope defeated Smiths Station 31-25 following a valiant second-half effort, closing its season an even 5-5.
“The kids did a really good job of executing,” Bradford said. “We did a good job with our unbalanced sets and just getting it to Trone. Offensive line did an outstanding job picking up the blitzes, because they had a lot of big guys in the box, and they were bringing everybody, playing a lot of man coverage.”
That offensive line and Trone took control in the second half.
Together they notched two touchdowns to go up 31-22. Two of Trone’s scoring jaunts Friday were from more than 50 yards out.
Smiths Station drove down the field and kicked a field goal to cut Stanhope’s lead to six the ensuing drive, then forced a punt from the Mustangs to give itself a chance for a game-winning touchdown drive.
It wasn’t to be. Sophomore defensive back A.J. Morris intercepted a throw to the end zone from the Panthers to ice the game.
“Our defense played solid all night, played great,” Bradford said. “Smiths Station is a really good football team, got a lot of big playmakers over there. They’re pretty good. The defense did a good job holding them down.”
Senior linebacker Fred Bass started the scoring for Stanhope with a blocked punt that senior defensive back Jared Cherry Daniel recovered for a touchdown.
Each of the Mustangs’ other four touchdowns were scored by Trone. His first was set up by a 50-yard reception from junior wide receiver Jackson Thomas.
With the victory, Stanhope closes its 2021 season. It’ll say goodbye to several key seniors including Bass and three of its starting offensive linemen.
Trone and Thomas will be back, however.