Sweet revenge for TRM against Andalusia
TRM tallies 36 straight points after early deficit
By RANDY WINTON Sports Writer
Based on the last four weeks, T.R. Miller's Tigers were true to form again Friday night in Andalusia.
In three of those first four games, the top-ranked team in the state had given up a big play and gotten behind early, only to put on the jets and leave the opponent coughing in its dust. So, why should Friday have been any different?
"It's been the tendency of this team," said T.R. Miller head coach Jamie Riggs. "It may not always be good, but somehow it works for us. We give up a big play early, then bow up and take care of business."
This time, Andalusia was the victim. If the 1-4 Bulldogs had any illusions of an upset after they took an early 8-7 first quarter lead, T.R. Miller vanquished them with a 35-point blitz over the next two-and-a-half quarters en route to a convincing 43-22 victory Friday night in a non-region matchup.
In the meantime, the Tigers were able to avenge last year's 35-31 loss after Andalusia overcame a 17-point halftime deficit to win.
"We were concerned about their offense and spent a lot of time this week preparing for them," Riggs said of Andalusia's version of a hybrid Wing-T that uses a lot of misdirection plays. "You have to be on your toes on defense and really be disciplined. And I thought our kids did a real nice job tonight."
While senior linebacker Samaritan Cunningham had one of his best nights of the year defensively (nine tackles and a caused fumble), as did junior Tyler Shehan (seven tackles), the defensive unit as a whole was impressive in allowing just 128 yards rushing and forcing the hosts to punt seven times.
For the third straight week, the Tigers blocked a punt that led to a touchdown. While the defense did its usual job, the offense got revved up early and rolled over Andalusia for 352 yards of offense. Senior tailback Skylar Fountain led the way with 114 yards on just eight carries and a touchdown.
T.R. Miller took a 7-0 lead on its first possession, thanks to a very efficient initial drive that saw quarterback Brad Lannom hit his first three passes and drive the team 61 yards in four plays. It was culminated with a 26-yard TD pass to sophomore sensation Antonio Gomez, who worked his way open down the middle of the field.
Andalusia, hungry for a big win after its dismal start, bounced back midway through the opening quarter. Wesley Liles bounced off a would-be tackler in the backfield and got loose down the left sideline for a dazzling 76-yard run. The Bulldogs took the lead when Jerome Tomberlin hauled in a Charles Eldridge pass for the two-point conversion.
"One of the marks of this team has been patience. We haven't panicked when we've given up a big play," Riggs said, whose team improved to 5-0 on the year. "We've just kept our composure and trusted the game plan. I'm proud of this team for its ability to bow up and overcome early adversity."
The Bulldogs seemed to have extended their lead on its next possession when Neal Patterson broke a 71-yard punt return open for a TD, but it was nullified by a block-in-the-back penalty. When the Tiger defense allowed no yards on the drive, the Bulldogs were forced to punt. That turn-around may have turned out to be the pivotal drive in the game.
Instead of facing a one-touchdown deficit, the Tigers broke a big play of its own. After Andalusia was forced to punt, an incomplete pass was followed by a 70-yard touchdown run by sophomore Nick Puryear, who replaced starting fullback Michael Jones (dislocated shoulder) in the first quarter.
With one man to beat, Puryear followed a nice downfield block from Jacob Salter that ultimately opened the way to the end zone. Gomez ran in the two-point conversion, and the Tigers took a 15-8 lead they would never relinquish.
From there, T.R. Miller left no doubt. In the middle two quarters, the Tigers tallied four more touchdowns to put it away.
They blocked a punt and needed just four plays before Tim Archer scored from 11 yards out early in the second quarter. Later Fountain broke free for a 59-yard score with just over two minutes left in the half to go into the break up 29-8.
The offense picked up in the second half right where it left off. In a six-play drive that covered 61 yards and was aided by a 39-yard pass-and-catch from Lannom to Fountain, Gomez put the finishing touches with a two-yard run. Joseph Turner kicked the fourth of his five PATs for the night to make it 36-8.
The final straw came just four plays later when Demetris Preyer landed a bone-jarring hit on an Andalusia player that separated him from the ball. Damien Jackson scooped it up and raced 36 yards for the final Tiger touchdown.
The Bulldogs scored a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns, which included a 25-yard pass play on the final play of the game to account for the final score.
"This was a good win for us," said Riggs. "We felt coming here we'd have to play our best game of the year to win and I think we did that. We're still a little rough around the edges, but we're working on that. As the second half of the season unfolds, we obviously want to keep getting better and better."
The Tigers return home to host winless Elba in a Class 3A Region 1 matchup next Friday. They will do so without Jones. He will is expected to miss next week's game with the dislocated shoulder.
T.R. Miller 15 14 14 0 - 43
Andalusia 8 0 0 14 - 22
TRM - Gomez 26 yard pass from Lannom (Turner kick)
ANDALUSIA - Liles 76 yard run (Tomberlin pass from Eldridge)
TRM - Puryear 70 yard run (Gomez run)
TRM - Archer 11 yard run (Turner kick)
TRM - Fountain 59 yard run (Turner kick)
TRM - Gomez 2 yard run (Turner kick)
TRM - Jackson 36 yard fumble return (Turner kick)
ANDALUSIA - McNeil 75 yard fumble return (Patterson pass from Eldridge)
ANDALUSIA - Patterson 25 yard pass from Eldridge
First downs: T.R. Miller 16, Anbdalusia 7
Rushing yards: T.R. Miller 263, Andalusia 128
Passing yards: T.R. Miller 89, Andalusia 57
Pass completions: T.R. Miller 4-13 1INT, Andalusia 6-13 1 INT
Total yards: T.R. Miller 352, Andalusia 185
Penalties: T.R. Miller 5-40, Andalusia 3-30
Fumbles/lost: T.R. Miller 3-2, Andalusia 3-1
Punt: T.R. Miller 2-36.0 avg., Andalusia 7-30.2 avg.