Miller back on track with win over Elba
By By RANDY WINTON – Sports Writer
Sometimes the most subtle of adjustments can cause the biggest disruption. In turn, that disruption can make for a long night on the football field.
Case in point: T.R. Miller's Tigers were picked apart in about a four-yard area by Elba's Tigers Friday night, as the two Region 1 foes sized each other up on the first drive of the game. In that drive, Elba quarterback Brandon Petty completed his first three passes on short quick slant routes that helped push his team to the game's first points, a 22-yard field goal by Marcus Henderson.
But Miller made an adjustment that moved its cornerbacks four yards off the ball and took away that passing cushion. The result effectively made life miserable for Petty and his Elba offensive unit, causing such an uproar that he completed just six of his next 23 passes. To rub salt in the wound, four different Miller defenders stepped in to register interceptions.
Such a subtle adjustment; yet such a devastating outcome for host Elba as that one change went a long way in helping to push Miller to a 27-9 Region 1 win Friday night.
Backed by the sometimes spectacular play of its defense, and a workmanlike offensive line that helped produce 309 yards, the Tigers took the first step to reclaiming its place in the region playoff chase with that win. To say a victory was imperative at this point would be an understatement considering the importance of this game was immeasurable based on how Miller might have reacted to last week's heart-breaking loss to Andalusia.
On Friday, Miller put together arguably its most complete offensive night of the season. Led by Antawn Gomez, the Tigers posted 214 yards on the ground as Gomez netted 123 on 19 carries. But the running game was balanced by a passing attack that added 95 yards through the air, as junior quarterback Brad Lannom completed six of 11 passes for a touchdown and one interception.
The Tigers continued the trend of winning when they rush for 200 yards. In their first six games, their four wins have come as a result of gaining 200-plus yards on the ground. In their two losses, they managed only a total of 215. They hope that trend continues next week when they host region foe Central of Hayneville for homecoming.
Both units were aided by a two-touchdown blitz in the span of 27 seconds late in the first quarter that allowed Miller to turn a 3-0 deficit into a 13-3 advantage it would never relinquish.
Elba had drawn first blood after that meticulous opening drive in which the host Tigers took the opening kickoff and, efficiently mixing pass and run, mounted a 16-play, 71-yard drive that culminated in Marcus Henderson's aforementioned field goal. Along the way, Elba converted on two third-down and another pair of fourth-down situations while eating up the first seven minutes of the game.
But Miller answered in a resounding way by scoring on its first play from scrimmage thanks to a perfectly executed play-action pass that Lannom tossed to Quentin Galloway, who in turn raced 56 yards for the touchdown. After Joseph Turner's PAT made it 7-3, Elba fumbled the ensuing kickoff and Webster Bailey scooped it up and returned it 17 yards for the score.
Especially on the defensive side. After yielding 71 yards on that initial Elba drive to open the game, Miller dug in defensively and allowed but 59 total yards the rest of the night. Along the way, it ended an Elba drive when Kirk Brown picked off a pass at the Tiger 8, then nearly stuffed Elba on four downs inside the 2 before it completed a fourth-down pass for a touchdown that Brown nearly broke up.
When possessing the ball, Riggs' offensive unit did something it was unable to do just a week earlier – sustain drives. After suffering a miserable second half against Andalusia in which the Tigers had six possessions where they went 3-and-out, at Elba Friday night they controlled the line of scrimmage when it counted most.
After Elba regained a bit of momentum to close the gap to 20-9, its optimism was short-lived when the Tigers returned the favor by engineering a 10-play, 56-yard scoring drive to close out the third quarter. Michael Jones hammered the final nail in the coffin with his two-yard blast. The drive was highlighted by a 13-yard Lannom to Galloway completion on third-and-11. It was the only third-down situation in the entire drive.