Jon Sumrall is not afraid to celebrate when his Troy University football team wins a game. Snapshots and videos provided on the program’s social media sites are proof of that.

He’s also not afraid to turn that celebration off before moving ahead to the next challenge, which is one reason the Trojans are playing host to the Sun Belt Conference Championship Game on Saturday.

“I’m going to celebrate in the locker room, sometimes I might even dance, if they want me to,” Sumrall said. “I’m not a great dancer, but I’ll celebrate with the guys after the game.”

They’ve done that for nine straight games. It hasn’t always been pretty and certainly hasn’t been perfect. But, a win is a win, and winning is fun. Winning also gets you perks like playing host to Coastal Carolina in the Sun Belt Championship game with kickoff slated for 2:30 p.m. at Veterans Memorial Stadium.

This past Monday, just like every other game week during the season, Sumrall delivered a message to his team.

“I’ll really quickly remind them, ‘So what, now what?’” said Sumrall, whose team won nine consecutive games after the Hail Mary loss to Appalachian State on September 17.  “Nobody cares anymore. Just like, after the App State game, things didn’t go our way and I told them ‘So what, now what?’ Well, you don’t say that [only] when bad things happen. What happens when good things happen? Well, now what. Nobody cares we beat Arkansas State now, that’s over.”

As he’s done all year, Sumrall put his head down with his team and went to work. There was the quick distraction of Sumrall earning Sun Belt Coach of the Year honors and linebacker Carlton Martial being selected as the conference’s defensive player of the year. First-team all-conference selections for the Trojans were Martial, offensive linemen Austin Stidham and Jake Andrews, defensive linemen T.J. Jackson and Will Choloh and defensive back Reddy Steward.

Now that’s out of the way, it’s time to get back to work.

“I think if we stick to our plan, we just play one play at a time, it’s just the next game for us,” said offensive coordinator Joe Craddock. “We’ve treated like that all year. Coach Sumrall has said it all year. I’ve told the offense all year. Whatever the game is next, that’s the most important game we’re in. I don’t want them to treat this game any different than they have all year.”

That’s a fine approach but it is more than just a game. Troy has never played in a Sun Belt Championship Game, which began in 2018. Coastal Carolina has been one of the programs that set the standard the past few seasons.

It starts with quarterback Grayson McCall, who was selected the Sun Belt Player of the Year for the third consecutive season. But the talented junior suffered a foot injury in early November and missed the final three games of the regular season. It’s unclear whether it will be McCall or redshirt junior Jarrett Guest.

“The quarterback, we don’t know which one is going to play,” Sumrall. “The system doesn’t really change much. Everybody knows Grayson McCall and how talented he is. But, they have an identity offensively, it doesn’t really change a whole lot, based upon who is playing.”  

The production is considerably different. McCall threw for 2,314 yards with 21 touchdowns and one interception and rushed for four touchdowns. Guest has 302 passing yards with a touchdown and four interceptions and rushed for a touchdown.

The Chanticleers also have the distraction of head coach Jamey Chadwell being mentioned as one of the primary candidates for the head coaching job at Liberty, which became vacant when Auburn hired Hugh Freeze.

Through it all, Troy is preparing to do what it has done all year.

“There hasn’t been a game that I thought, ‘These guys don’t love each other and don’t play hard for each other,’” Sumrall said. “They do. They play hard every week. Nobody, in life, is perfect. But I do appreciate and I’m grateful for our young men for every time they put the ball down to play, they compete, they give great effort, they strain. Are there areas we have to grow and improve, still? Yeah, but we show up.”

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