n Second-Half Turnaround Sparks Miller Past Clarke County
Tigers flex muscles in second half
By RANDY WINTON Sports Writer
It took 24 minutes of football for T.R. Miller's Tigers to learn a valuable lesson Friday night in its eventual 23-6 Region 1 win at Clarke County - playing with emotion and being physical are two aspects of the game that simply cannot be taken lightly.
For, during the course of the first half between the Tigers (3-0, 2-0) and host Clarke County (2-1, 1-1), a talented and very physical Bulldog team held the top-ranked squad in Class 3A in check. And while the Bulldogs held only a 6-0 lead through that first half, it had done something no other team has been able to do in a long, long time - hold Miller scoreless for the first half.
And it did so by utilizing its strengths on both sides of the ball to set the tempo to their liking. On offense, a polished wing-T attack had the Tiger defense on its heels. While rushing for 105 yards, Clarke County held possession for 14 minutes. More impressive was its defense, which held the vaunted Tiger attack to just two first downs with an anemic16 yards rushing and one completed pass that covered 25.
That from a team that had averaged 200 yards rushing per game over the last six games (dating back to last season), and was coming off a win over Straughn in which it had run for 203 and passed for another 205.
There's nothing like a good dose of reality to bring the focus of a goal back into perspective. So, chalk this one up to a positive learning experience. Because, for awhile, it could have easily gone the other way.
The mark of a good football team is how it responds in crucial moments. And, after such a lacklustre first half, the outcome of the game surely bordered on the response of the Tigers.
So, from the opening drive of the second half, they responded well, thanks to the inspiring running of senior tailback Skylar Fountain. Fountain flourished behind an offensive line that met the challenge. He rushed for 88 second-half yards and a touchdown in leading Miller to the eventual victory. He finished the night with 105 yards on 13 carries as the Tigers scored on three of their first four possessions of the second half.
While the offense got into a groove, the Tiger defense lifted itself to another level as well. In Clarke County, it faced a team that had scored 83 points in its first two games and had run roughshod over opponents.
But in the telling final two quarters Friday night, defensive standouts Samaritan Cunningham, Demetris Preyer, Michael Jones, among others, shut down the Bulldogs by allowing just one first down and a paltry 13 yards.
Because of that effort, the offense was able to get in a groove. Once it got untracked, it didn't leave much doubt.
After the second-half kickoff, the Tigers traveled 68 yards in just seven plays. Converting a third-and-6 with an 11-yard completion from Brad Lannom to Jacob Salter to their 47-yard line, they were in business. From there, Fountain broke a 24-yard run, to the 29. After a two-yard run from Jones, Lannom hit Antonio Gomez in the right corner of the end zone from 27 yards out. Lannom had handed off to Fountain, who handed it back before Lannom threw a perfect strike to the sophomore wideout.
Forcing Clarke County to punt on its ensuing possession, the Tigers benefitted from a dazzling 30-yard return from Gomez. Buoyed by a 15-yard run on first down from Fountain, Miller capped off a four-play, 27-yard drive on a seven-yard run from Fountain to make it 14-6.
After another Bulldog punt, the Tigers put the game away on its first possession of the final stanza. Lannom engineered an eight-play, 60-yard drive, with Fountain carrying three times for 42 yards. Jones covered the final four yards to up the score to 21-6.
The Tigers added a safety when a bad snap on a punt rolled through the back of the end zone to provide for the final score.