Riggs warns squad not to overlook Elba
Elba may be winless but most of its contests have been close
By BRUCE HIXON Sports Editor
Few give the Elba Tigers much chance of upsetting the T.R. Miller Tigers Friday at Brewton Municipal Stadium. In fact, the question most people are asking is not if T.R. Miller will win, but by how much.
Games that pit a 5-0 team that is ranked number one in the state against an 0-5 opponent usually fall in that category.
Like any good coach, T.R. Miller coach Jamie Riggs refuses to take Elba and its struggles lightly. For starters, Friday's contest is a Class 3A Region 1 game. T.R. Miller is 3-0 in that part of its slate, while the opposing Tigers are 0-3.
"The fact it is a region game should be motivation by itself," Riggs said. "Five region wins usually gets a team into the playoffs, but four usually puts you on the bubble. We have to take things one game at a time. We've got some big games down the stretch, but we can't look past Elba."
T.R. Miller was in a similar situation two weeks ago when it hosted a winless Calhoun squad. The Tigers jumped out to a 56-0 halftime lead en route to a 63-8 win. Riggs said his team needs a similar effort against Elba.
"For whatever reason, we've had a tendency to get off to slow starts this season. The Calhoun game was an exception. We need to find a way to get out of the gate quickly," Riggs said. "At the same time we can't take Elba lightly. Sure, they are 0-5 but they are probably one of the better winless teams I've seen. They've got a good running back in Kinney Hill, a couple of good linemen and a couple of pretty good defensive players. Another thing that concerns me is they have some speed. They've lost a lot of close games and some other games that were closer than the final score. Last week they played pretty well against Luverne (a 30-14 loss)."
Riggs said Elba is a team with a lot of youth.
"Young teams usually play with a lot of emotion. If they can get some breaks such as turnovers early in the game, it will fire them up that much more. Turnovers are a big equalizer in football. That's another reason why we need to get off to a better start than what we've been doing," Riggs said.
One of T.R. Miller's biggest problems right now is a growing injury list. Senior fullback Michael Jones suffered a dislocated shoulder in last week's 43-22 win at Andalusia and is questionable against Elba. Junior cornerback Gerald Banton suffered a finger injury against Andalusia and is also questionable. On a more positive front, senior tackle Kevin Ard is now close to 100 percent after he suffered an ankle injury earlier in the campaign.
"We've gone through some years where we didn't have any significant injuries, but we've been hit pretty hard this season. Both Jones and Banton have the kind of injuries that can re-occur
again if they aren't completely healed when they return to action. Meanwhile Ard played last week and played pretty well after his injury," Riggs said.
With Jones possibly out, the host Tigers will have to rely more on senior tailback Skylar Fountain and sophomore Nick Puryear. Both had big games against Andalusia. Fountain racked up 114 yards on just eight carries, while Puryear had a 70-yard touchdown run.
"Both of those players did a pretty nice job last week, especially Skylar. They are going to have to carry more of the load with Jones' injury," Riggs said.
One area Riggs hopes his team improves from last week is its passing game. Quarterback Brad Lannom completed his first three passes in last week's game, but then he completed just one of its final 10 pass attempts.
"Brad has had a real nice season so far. Maybe he was due to have a game where he was a little off, but hopefully we can get that part of our game back on track," Riggs said.
Meanwhile T.R. Miller senior tight end Trent Davidson gave a verbal commitment to attend the University of Alabama.