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Miller begins season with home game

By By RANDY WINTON, Sports reporter
Pre-season previews and rankings aside, any coach worth his salt will tell you it takes a team more than banging on each other for two weeks in August to give an indication of the season ahead.
That's what Friday nights are for. Particularly this Friday night, as it introduces the 2003 edition of the T.R. Miller Tigers in its season-opener with Escambia County High School at Brewton Municipal Stadium. Kickoff is 7:30.
Fresh off its sixth AHSAA state football championship, these Tigers are not unlike most other Miller teams of the past 14 years. Once again, the Tigers enter the season as the top-ranked team in the state; once again, expectations are high; and, yes, once again, visions of state championships continue to dance in the heads of every person who loves the red and black with such deep devotion.
And, once again, it won't be until the final buzzer sounds Friday night that head coach Jamie Riggs will realize what he has wanted to see since fall practice started: how will his team approach and react to the situations it will face throughout this first game?
Friday could prove to be a good indicator, as ECHS brings with it a team with explosive speed and experience on both sides of the ball. Add to it a new coach in Mardye McDole who has experienced excellence on the football field as an All-American wide receiver at Mississippi State University and three years with the Minnesota Vikings.
In a pre-season game versus Shaw High School last week, the Blue Devils ran out to a 17-0 first-half lead and went on to win 32-20. Senior tailback Chris Simpson ran for over 100 yards and scored a pair of touchdowns which covered 62 and 58 yards. Senior fullback Calvin Davis added another score, and both had a pair of TDs called back in the second half.
While ECHS has its entire offensive unit pretty much intact from a year ago, Miller itself will sport a pretty experienced offense when it takes the field. Quarterback Brad Lannom, a senior, returns to guide the offense, and will do so behind a very experienced line. Although starting tackle Kevin Ard is out for three weeks with an ankle injury, the offensive line is pretty much intact and will anchor the offensive attack that will be led by tailback Skylar Fountain and fullback Michael Jones.
It was in last year's opener where most of this year's returning starters made their first appearance. In that debut, the Tigers rolled up 369 yards of offense and overcame the Devils with a 44-20 win.
This year, experience will meet experience and the old cliches still have a place in the game.