Troy doesn’t need any help to reach the Sun Belt Football Championship Game. They don’t have to watch other scoreboards or root for any other team.
That’s a good feeling.
The Trojans can claim the Sun Belt West title with a victory over Arkansas State in a game that kicks off on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. in Jonesboro, Arkansas. Technically, the Trojans could clinch if South Alabama loses to Old Dominion in a game that kicks off more than three hours earlier. But, that’s not the approach the Trojans are taking.
“I’m very grateful that we’re in this situation, where we control our own destiny,” said Troy head coach Jon Sumrall. “We are personally responsible for whatever outcome we get. It’s our responsibility. I think our guys understand that. I’m grateful for their hard work and everything they’ve done to put us in this position as a team. No doubt we will respect the game, our opponent and the preparation it takes to play the game the right way come Saturday.”
If the Trojans take care of business on Saturday, it will be the first time they’ve made it to the conference championship game. This will be the sixth time that the conference has scheduled a championship game and the fifth time the game will actually be played. The 2020 game was canceled because of COVID-19. The first championship game was played in 2018. The last time Troy won a conference title was 2017.
That fact is not lost on Sumrall, who is in his first season as head coach and was an assistant coach at Troy from 2015-17. But, he refuses to let that be the focus.
“It’s a proud program, with unbelievable history and tradition, a lot of that is what attracted me to come back to Troy,” Sumrall said. “We have a chance, still, to do something that we haven’t done. We’ve never clinched this side of the division in this conference. A chance to do something new and unique in that regard. None of that matters right now, to me, other than just get prepared to play the game. I’m so focused, at the task of hand, of do what’s right in front of you, be where your feet are. We got to prepare, each and every day, the right way, the way we have most of the year.”
Fired up about Tuesday practice the week of Thanksgiving. It does not get more beautiful than this. Huge shout out to our grounds crew for keeping it top shelf! @TroyTrojansFB pic.twitter.com/Hw4wOJ5t61— Jon Sumrall (@CoachJonSumrall) November 22, 2022
Quarterback Gunnar Watson has been part of the program since 2018 and has been the starter for much of the past three seasons. He’s never played on a championship team at Troy, so this is a big deal. Taking care of business comes first.
“We’re going to prepare like we do for every game and go in to try and get a win,” Watson said earlier this week. “I think it’s really the same thing I’ve been saying all year. We break it down a lot and I break it down on ‘Win.’ Just go out there, do your job and we’ll win the game. I think that’s been the best part about all of it, just winning. The last couple of years haven’t went the way we wanted it to. It’s fun now. We know what’s at stake, we just want to go out there and win.”
Coastal Carolina has already clinched the SBC East title and will play in the championship game for the first time. The Chanticleers qualified to play in the game that was canceled in 2020. Coastal Carolina closes the regular season against James Madison on Saturday. If the Chanticleers lose and Troy wins, the Trojans would host the December 3 championship game. If both win, then they will go to the tiebreakers to determine the host team, because both will have the same record in conference play.
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