Tigers advance with another shutout
By By SCOTT COOPER – Sports Writer
With Friday night's 35-0 second-round playoff victory over the highly touted Tarrant Wildcats at Brewton Municipal Stadium, the T.R. Miller Tigers moved another step closer to their goal of earning a spot in the Class 3A championship game.
Tarrant, last season's Class 3A runner-up, entered the contest with a 10-1 record and the state's No. 3 ranking. The Wildcats had earned the reputation throughout the season of a team laden with enough talent to dominate on both sides of the ball.
On this particular night, however, it was the Tigers who proved to be the superior team. Displaying a suffocating defense that held Tarrant's potent offense in check and a balanced offensive attack that amassed 288 total yards, Miller controlled the action while improving to 8-3 on the season and advancing to the third round of the state playoff competition.
After a scoreless opening quarter, the Tigers grabbed a 6-0 lead with a 36-yard Brad Lannom to Brent Salter pass completion on the first play of the second quarter. Miller then padded the lead to 14-0 with another touchdown midway through the second period.
Any Tarrant thoughts of a second-half comeback were quickly put to rest in the third quarter, as the Tigers went on an offensive rampage with three more touchdowns.
Following the game, Miller head coach Jamie Riggs praised both the Tigers' defensive efforts and offensive passing game.
The two teams began the game trading punts and jockeying for field position. But, the Tigers began a scoring drive with 1:34 remaining in the first quarter after fielding a Wildcat punt and starting from the Miller 44-yard line.
Antawn Gomez gained 11 yards with a first down run before adding a 10-yard run on the next play to the Tarrant 35-yard line. Shylar Fountain netted a 4-yard gain to the 31-yard line, but then an illegal procedure penalty on the Tigers moved the ball back to the 36-yard line as time expired in the opening quarter.
With the following snap and on the initial play of the second stanza, Lannom dropped back to pass and hit Salter down the right sideline for a touchdown. The two-point conversion attempt was stopped short, but the Tigers had drawn first blood at 6-0 with 11:51 left in the second quarter.
The Tigers kicked off to Tarrant and Samaritan Cunningham served notice that Miller intended to continue taking it to the Wildcats by registering a vicious tackle of the Tarrant kick returner at the 19-yard line.
The Wildcats gained a couple of first downs as they moved the football to their 42-yard line. Then, Kurt Prater recovered a first down fumble to give Miller possession on the Tarrant 35-yard line.
The Tigers kept the football on the ground as they steadily marched toward paydirt. Tim Atcher, Michael Jones, and Gomez took turns carrying the ball while eating-up the yardage.
Gomez got the call on the scoring play, crossing the goal line after taking it up the middle on an 11-yard run. Jones pounded it into the end zone on the two-point conversion to give the Tigers a 14-0 lead they would take into the locker room at intermission.
Miller stretched the advantage with a scoring drive on its second possession of the third quarter.
Starting from their own 40-yard line after receiving a Tarrant punt, the Tigers put together a 6-play, 60-yard drive that effectively put the game out of reach. The touchdown came on a 37-yard Jones run off left tackle in which he broke free at the line of scrimmage before outrunning the Wildcats' defense into the end zone. Joseph Turner's PAT made the score 21-0 with 4:52 left in the third quarter.
Forcing a Tarrant punt after only three plays on the Wildcats' next possession, only one play was required for the Tigers to add to their total.
The duo of Lannom and Salter once again combined on a quick, lethal aerial connection that further padded Miller's cushion. As a wide-open Salter streaked down the left side of the field, Lannom hit him with a perfect strike that was good for a 60-yard touchdown. Turner split the uprights to up the lead to 28-0 with 3:00 remaining in the third quarter.
The Tigers' special teams unit came up with a big play on the ensuing kickoff, as James Perry recovered a Tarrant fumble that gave Miller the football on the Wildcats' 18-yard line.
The Miller trio of Atcher, Jones and Gomez alternated runs that moved the football the 18 yards needed for the score, with Gomez earning the touchdown on a 3-yard run around right end. With 1:09 still remaining in the third period, Turner nailed the PAT to end the scoring at 35-0.
Next on the playoff agenda for Miller is a third-round meeting with Springville (10-2), a 13-6 winner over Straughn in another second-round game. The Tigers will host Springville this Friday night at Brewton Municipal Stadium.