Tiger offense 'priceless' in third-round win
By By RANDY WINTON – Sports Writer
Those writers in Hollywood would have had a field day if they happened on Brewton Municipal Stadium Friday night in the quarterfinal round of the Alabama State 3A high school football playoffs.
When their commercial airs, it might sound something like this:
Hot dog, popcorn and coke: $4.50
Red shakers and a program to find your favorite player: $6
Watching Brent Salter soar over three defenders to make the biggest catch of his life and secure the T.R. Miller Tigers' hand-wrenching 35-21 victory over Springville: Priceless."
To attempt to describe that one defining play doesn't even do justice to the clutch grab Salter made as Miller nursed a precarious 27-21 lead late in the game against No. 10 Springville. Facing a third-and-five from its own 35, the Tigers called on junior quarterback Brad Lannom to launch a deep post to Salter in the middle of the field. And what has become the dynamic duo of a suddenly-explosive offensive unit in these 2002 playoffs, they hooked up once again.
As the ball made its way, Salter, who had been grabbed and nearly knocked down on his route, somehow regained his balance and leaped high over three defenders to pull down the ball at Springville's 31 for a 34-yard completion with 3:49 left. That play not only kept the drive alive, but opened the door for the Tigers to score the clinching touchdown five plays later when Antawn Gomez bulled his way through the final nine yards for the clinching score.
Riggs had reason to be on edge. The Springville surge of the closing minutes of the first half aside, the Tiger defense had been blistered for nearly 300 yards passing by Springville sophomore quarterback Stephen Yance, who completed 19 of his 48 passes. At the time leading by only six, 27-21, Salter's clutch grab prevented the Springville offense from seeing the field again.
And while Lannom and Salter may be long remembered for their respective performances, it can't be lost on anyone that it was junior Michael Jones who kept the ship afloat.
For it was Jones who ended the night with 79 yards rushing and 73 more receiving yards en route to Miller's first three touchdowns as the Tigers built the early 21-0 advantage. He scored first on a one-yard run, then on a 43-yard scamper before hauling in Lannom's first pass and racing 43 yards for another score with just under seven minutes to play in the first half. He added a two-point conversion run on the game's final touchdown.
Springville countered with a six-play, 68-yard drive that culminated with a Tommy Toles 3-yard plunge with 6:06 to play in the first half, closing the gap to 21-7. After a fumble recovery on Miller's ensuing possession, Yance engineered a seven-play, 52-yard drive that ended with a 22-yard scoring toss to Derrick Williamson.
When Miller failed to run out the final three minutes and punted with 1:14 left, Yates again went to work and eventually found Patrick Hadarhan down the left sideline for a 24-yard score with just 34 seconds remaining to knot it a 21-all.
Again, it took a big play by Salter in that opening drive to make it happen. On second-and-11 from their own 19, Lannom lofted a pass down the right sideline that Salter grabbed over the defender for a 36-yard gain. From there, the Tigers converted a third-and-six and again on a third-and-11, the final conversion a 35-yard touchdown strike to senior James Martin.
Springville got as close as the Tiger 30 twice in the fourth quarter, but a Joseph Turner interception and a stellar break-up of a pass by Quentin Galloway on fourth down thwarted both drives.
The Tigers, who have now beaten three ranked teams by a total of 105-21 in the post-season, advance to the semifinals for the third consecutive year and are one game away from a shot at the state championship.
Miller (9-3) will travel to Montgomery Academy next Friday night to fight for the right to play for all the marbles in Birmingham two weeks from now.
Montgomery Academy (11-2), No. 8 in the final regular-season poll, upset No. 4 Pike County, 12-6, Friday night. The other semifinal matchup will pit No. 9 Colbert County (11-2) at No. 2 Litchfield (12-1).
The pitch-and-catch from Lannom to Salter was the last of the night for Lannom, who completed seven of his nine passes for a career-high 202 yards. Measured with 223 yards rushing, Miller's 425 yards of offense marked its most-balanced output of the year.
Still, even with such an offensive gust, the game remained a nail-biter throughout, thanks to Springville's ability to take advantage of Miller mistakes. Yet, it was Miller's ability to keep its composure under such pressure that allowed the Tigers to close the deal.