Once again Pike County gets best of TRM
By By RANDY WINTON Sports Writer
One minute showed on the clock when Skylar Fountain broke through three tackles and bulled his way six yards for what seemed to cap a thrilling come-from-behind, game-winning touchdown in T.R. Miller's epic clash with Pike County Friday night at Brewton Municipal Stadium.
When Joseph Turner completed the scoring drive with the point after kick that gave T.R. Miller a 21-20 lead, that final, small dose of 60 seconds was surely nothing more than mere formality.
Accept to T.R. Miller coach Jamie Riggs.
Because he knew the big play capability of Pike County, Riggs looked at the ground and realized the weight of the moment. It was too much time.
His thought proved prophetic, as the explosive Pike County Bulldogs' offense covered 65 yards in just four plays and scored the winning touchdown with 10 ticks remaining in this clash of Class 3A titans. As a result, Pike County pried victory from the jaws of defeat and won the Region 1 battle 27-21.
It did so behind arguably the best 1-2 combination in the state. Quarterback Chris Nickson connected with his favorite target, tight end Nick Walker, for 22 yards in the right corner of the end zone for the score.
Pike County's win not only ended T.R. Miller's 13-game win streak (its last loss was also to Pike County last year), it assured the visitors the top seed in the first round of the playoffs.
Now the Tigers (5-1 in region play and 7-1 overall), who spent all season ranked atop the 3A standings, must defeat W.S. Neal next week for the important second seed and home field advantage when the "second season" begins in three weeks. W.S. Neal defeated Straughn 21-13 Friday.
"Hey, we did all we could do," Riggs said. "We just gave them too much time. In 99 percent of the games you play, if you score with a minute left to take the lead, you're going to win. Pike County is a whole different story. They have an awesome ability to move the ball downfield in a hurry and we just couldn't stop them."
"Them" mostly refers to Nickson and Walker. Nickson, who is being courted by college football coaches as well as professional baseball teams, and the 6-4, 240-pound Walker, who has verbally committed to Alabama, applied most of the damage. The durable Nickson, as he does every week, led the team in rushing with 115 yards on 21 carries, and one touchdown. He also threw 29 passes and completed 15 for 237 yards and three touchdowns. He personally accounted for 352 of his team's 409 total yards.
Nickson went four-for-four on the deciding drive with completions of 29, 12, seven and 22 yards. His last throw to Walker won the game and was the second great catch of the winning drive. Just three plays before, on first-and-10 from the Pike County 35, Nickson fired a pass that seemed to be over Walker's head. Instead, Walker, who had seven grabs for 115 yards, reached up and made a full-extension, one-handed catch for a 29-yard gain to the T.R. Miller 36.
That drive stifled a frenzied T.R. Miller crowd, which had watched its beloved Tigers fight back from several missed opportunities and a 20-7 deficit at the outset of the fourth quarter to take a 21-20 lead.
A fumble and an interception in the end zone in the first quarter snuffed out promising drives. The Tigers started two third quarter drives inside the Pike County 26 but could not convert.
"We had our chances," Riggs said. "We had them down at times, but the early turnovers and the two third quarter drives where we got so close and didn't put points on the board hurt. That's football. I'm proud of our guys for the way they fought. We played hard against a great football team. We whipped them at times and they whipped us at times."
Pike County (6-0 in region and 7-1 overall) drew first blood off that T.R. Miller fumble, which came two plays after the visitors missed a 25-yard field goal on the game's opening drive. After the Tigers gained 22 yards on their first two plays, a fumble was scooped up by Jarmon Barrow and returned 32 yards to the T.R. Miller 10-yard line. Two plays and a Nickson pass to Chris Bell later, Pike County had a 7-0 lead.
The visitors then converted another score after T.R. Miller's second turnover when Nickson picked off that pass in the end zone. Ten plays and 80 yards later, Nickson ran four yards for a touchdown to put his team up 14-0 with 10:46 remaining in the half.
T.R. Miller got on the board with an impressive drive after the ensuing kickoff. Antonio Gomez culminated a 10-play, 65-yard drive with a four-yard run that made it 14-7 with 5:19 to go in the half.
The Bulldogs extended their lead to 20-7 when Nickson found Elijah Daniels on a post route for 23 yards with 44 seconds left in the third quarter.
T.R. Miller answered when Fountain, who rushed for 138 yards on 22 carries and a pair of touchdowns, burst through from eight yards out. That set the stage for the frenzied finish.
Down 20-14 with 4:13 to play and 53 yards from the end zone, T.R. Miller put together an eight-play drive designed to manage the clock and put the deciding points on the board. Fountain broke three tackles on that dazzling scoring run to give T.R. Miller its only lead before Pike County turned the tables on its hosts' victory party.
At T.R. Miller
Pike County 7 7 6 7 – 27
T.R. Miller 0 7 0 14 – 21
PIKE COUNTY- Bell 10 yard pass from Nickson (Walker kick)
PIKE COUNTY- Nickson 4 yard run (Walker kick)
T.R. MILLER- A. Gomez 4 yard run (Turner kick)
PIKE COUNTY- Daniels 23 yard pass from Nickson (kick failed)
T.R. MILLER- Fountain 8 yard run (Turner kick)
T.R. MILLER- Fountain 6 yard run (Turner kick)
PIKE COUNTY- Walker 22 pass from Nickson (Walker kick)
First downs: Pike County 19, T.R. Miller 19
Total yards: Pike County 409 (172 rushing, 237 passing); T.R. Miller 279 (175 rushing, 104 passing)
Pass completions: Pike County- 15-29 1INT; T.R. Miller- 7-14 1INT
Fumbles/lost: Pike County 1-0; T.R. Miller 1-1
Punts: Pike County 3-31.3 avg.; T.R. Miller 1-33.0 avg.
Penalties: Pike County 8-60; T.R. Miller 1-5