Defense, special teams roll as Tigers win

Published 12:30 am Wednesday, September 25, 2002

By By RANDY WINTON – Sports Writer
As T.R. Miller spent the week preparing for a punchless Calhoun football team that had not tasted victory this season, it might have been easy for the eighth-ranked Tigers to look ahead on its schedule. After all, next week's battle with non-region foe Andalusia provides a bit more appeal than trying to stay focused on an 0-3 team that had given up an average of 35 points a game this year.
Besides, after head coach Jamie Riggs' progressively-improving team disposed of highly-touted Clarke County the week previous, who could begrudge his troops a bit of a letdown so long as it ended with a "W" in Calhoun?
The Tigers themselves, that's who.
So it was, as Miller (3-1, 2-1) put away their Region 1 foe on yet another sloppy Friday night, it did so not necessarily with offensive glitter, but with the prowess of its defense and the timeliness of its special teams.
Take one play away, a 72-yard touchdown run by Calhoun's Derrick Thomas with four minutes to play, and the stifling Tiger defense yielded a paltry 18 rushing yards and only 19 more through the air for the entire game. In fact, Calhoun (0-3, 0-2) crossed the 50-yard line into Tiger territory only three times, including that long TD run.
As for the special teams … well, they were just that. They accounted for two blocked punts - one returned 12 yards for a touchdown by Bryan Madden - eight PATs by Joseph Turner on a slippery field, and 166 all-purpose yards by freshman sensation Antonio Gomez, thanks to a pair of interception returns covering 47 and 95 yards, and 24 more after receiving a punt.
Need to measure this Tiger team four games in the season? Throw away the yard stick and pull out your measuring tape. With the defensive unit and special teams clicking, the offense is not far behind, which bodes well as it prepares to host an angry Adalusia team that was flattened, 43-14, by UMS-Wright Friday night.
After all, for the fourth straight week Miller booked over 200 yards on the ground. While Michael Jones led the scoring binge with three touchdowns on runs of 4, 10 and 18 yards, all eight of the Tigers' TDs came via the running game. No less than five running backs had at least 30 rushing yards, led by sophomore Keath Turner's 62 on nine carries and one touchdown.
Jones ended the night with 55 on just seven carries, while Skylar Fountain, Brad Lannom and Jeremy Pete also added scores.
It did not take long - about two minutes, in fact - for the Tigers to get out of the starting blocks. Jones had penetrated the line and tackled the Calhoun punter at the 4-yard line following a bad snap to end the hosts' first possession. Jones himself did the honors on Miller's first offensive play, covering those four yards untouched for the TD.
Calhoun got as close as the Tiger 23 on its next possession, but on fourth-and-14, Dominic Johnson - who had eight tackles - booked a sack for a nine-yard loss.
The Tigers answered with a 13-play, 68-yard drive, culminated by Fountain's one-yard plunge on the second play of the second quarter. Before the half would end, Miller would reach paydirt three more times and take an insurmountable 35-0 advantage into the break.

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