Tiger defense leads to homecoming victory
By By RANDY WINTON – Sports Writer
The high school football schedule may not have reflected it, but as T.R. Miller entered its seventh week under those Friday night lights, it did so facing two opponents. One was outmanned Central of Hayneville, winners of only one game; the other was complacency.
Complacency might have proved a bigger adversary.
While having to play against lowly Central knowing a meeting with second-ranked Pike County was just a week away, keeping focused and playing with intensity was imperative Friday night.
That being the case, the Tigers were 2-0 at Brewton Municipal Stadium on a warm and muggy Homecoming night. In beating Central, 48-12, Miller also overcame the urge to "coast" through the week.
In facing a 1-5 Central team that gave up nearly 40 points a game, there was the opportunity to look past the Lions to mighty Pike County, still undefeated and owners of the top spot in Region 1. They will face off Friday night in what could prove Miller's biggest test of the year.
Pike County still stands unbeaten, after disposing of Clarke County 35-21 Friday night, and will put its 7-0 record on the line when Miller (5-2, 4-1) comes calling in the all-important Region 1 matchup. Both Pike County and Straughn, which struggled to beat Elba 7-0 Friday, remain unbeaten in the region, and Miller is on their heels with the one loss.
While Miller has Pike next week and W.S. Neal to close its regular-season schedule the following week, the opportunity is certainly there to put itself in good position in the playoff picture with two wins. Still, the number one priority on Miller's agenda Friday night was a victory over Central.
Going into the stretch run, it was important that Miller get off to a quick start Friday night - score a lot of points and allow a lot of people the opportunity to play. The Tigers answered the call, scoring three defensive touchdowns in less than two minutes to open a 20-0 lead with nearly eight minutes to go in the first quarter.
They did so without the benefit of a single offensive play, as all three touchdowns came on turnovers. They would finish that first quarter with a 33-0 lead.
Freshman sensation Antonio Gomez kicked off the scoring blitz by intercepting a pass and returning it 16 yards for a score. Joseph Turner booted the first of his six PATs as Miller went up 7-0.
Forty-six seconds later, on the second Central play following the ensuing kickoff, Quentin Galloway jarred the ball loose at the 6-yard line and Dominic Johnson fell on it in the end zone for the TD. Three plays later, Samaritan Cunningham grabbed a Central pass and raced 39 yards for the touchdown.
Over the next five minutes, the Tiger offense added two more touchdowns before the first quarter finally ended. Kirk Brown covered eight yards for one score, and Michael Jones raced 11 for the other.
The Tigers would tack on another touchdown in the second quarter on a nifty seven-yard run by backup quarterback Damien Jackson to go up 41-6 before the half. Antonio Gomez finished Miller's scoring when he returned the second-half kickoff 82 yards for his team's final touchdown.
Thanks to its defense, which registered its second straight impressive performance, the Miller starting offensive unit did not play more than a half. Although Miller had been 4-0 when rushing for 200 yards, it didn't need to rely on its offensive production.
The Tigers had rushed for 150 first-half yards, but ended the night with 166 after executing just seven rushing plays as the second-half clock did not stop in the blowout. In fact, before it was over, three quarterbacks played, and 12 different players registered rushing yards. Every freshman on the team played the entire second half.
As the defense sparkled, it ended up scoring the three touchdowns, picking off the two interceptions and yielding just 27 yards rushing to the Lions.