Wait nearly over for TRM-Pike County
By By BRUCE HIXON Sports Editor
While fans have talked about it for weeks, the words Pike County are something T.R. Miller Tigers football coach Jamie Riggs has tried to avoid.
The Tigers and Bulldogs will clash in the biggest game of the year so far in Class 3A Region 1 at Brewton Municipal Stadium Friday at 7:30 p.m.
While T.R. Miller (5-0 in region play and 7-0 overall) is ranked number one in the state in Class 3A, Pike County (5-0 in region play and 6-1 overall) is ranked fourth.
Friday's winner will take over sole possession of first place in Region 1 with one week left of region competition. The region champion will be awarded a number one seed for the playoffs.
"The loser won't be eliminated, but it will sure make it difficult," Riggs said.
Both teams wrapped up playoff berths Friday. T.R. Miller ran past Hayneville Central 48-16, while Pike County smashed Clarke County 55-6.
"We obviously want to win the region title, but that's not our immediate emphasis. We want to make sure we finish in the top two in our region and get a home game for the first round of the playoffs," Riggs said.
The game is also a matchup of winning streaks. Pike County has won six straight games since it lost to Eufala 13-7 in the first week of the season. Meanwhile the Tigers have reeled off 13 straight wins dating back to last season. T.R. Miller's last loss was a 19-13 setback to the Bulldogs.
"We knew going into last season Pike County was really good and we know going into Friday's game they are really good again," Riggs said.
Both teams have put up huge offensive numbers. T.R. Miller has averaged 46.2 points a game, while the Tigers have averaged 48. Pike County's total includes 139 points in the last two weeks alone.
"I've seen some matchups where two teams have put up some big offensive numbers and then you'll have a 7-6 defensive struggle. You just don't know. Games like this are often decided by penalties, turnovers and special teams," Riggs said.
Pike County used a balanced attack to rack up 503 yards against Clarke County. That figure included 245 yards rushing and 258 passing.
Pike County quarterback Chris Nickson (6-1, 190 lb. sr.) accounted for 361 yards and seven touchdowns in that game. Nickson ran for 103 yards and four touchdowns. He threw for 258 yards and three more scores.
"Nickson is an outstanding quarterback. He played a big role in their win over us last season. They want the ball in his hands because he doesn't make many mistakes," Riggs said.
Tight ends are usually not the focal point of a team's passing game, but that is not the case with Pike County. Nick Walker (6-4, 240 lb. sr.) caught eight passes for 129 yards and a touchdown in the win over Clarke County. Like T.R. Miller tight end Trent Davidson, Walker has given a verbal agreement to sign with Alabama.
"It will be interesting to see how both Trent and Walker perform, but they are different in style. Trent is probably a little bigger and a little more physical, while Walker has a few more skill tools. They both can block and catch the ball well," Riggs said.
The Bulldogs also have effective receivers in Elijah Daniel (6-0, 160 lb. sr.) and Reggie Griffin (5-11, 160 lb. jr.).
"They've got a lot of speed with their recievers. Daniel has exceptional speed. They use him a lot on returns and he has often given their offense good field position," Riggs said.
Pike County's ground game is led by James Jackson (5-8, 150 lb. fr.). Jackson ran for 126 yards on 11 carries last week.
"Like so many of their players, Jackson has great speed," Riggs said.
One of Pike County's few weaknesses may be depth. The Bulldogs' roster contains only 25 players.
"It hasn't seemed to bother them, but a lot of their players have to go both ways. Fortunately for them, they've been able to avoid a bunch of injuries," Riggs said. "Fortunately for us, we're probably as healthy now as we've been since early in the season. We should have everybody available this week."
Riggs said the battle lines have already been drawn.
"We know what they're going to do and they know what we're going to do. Now it comes down to how well the players execute," Riggs said.