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Tigers journey to Jay for last playoff tuneup

By By BRUCE HIXON Sports Editor
Some might say Friday's game at Jay (Fla.) is nothing more than a playoff tuneup for the T.R. Miller Tigers.
There is a certain amount of truth to that philosophy. Regardless of what happens at Jay, the Tigers have the number two seed in Class 3A Region 1 and a first-round home playoff game against Midfield next week.
That is not the approach Tigers coach Jamie Riggs is taking.
"I think any coach would say it's important to enter the playoffs on a high note. It gives you some momentum," Riggs said.
If the Tigers are looking for momentum, they need to look no farther than the second half of last week's come-from-behind 20-14 win at W.S. Neal. For the second week in a row, the Tigers overcame a 14-point deficit. Unlike the previous week against Pike County, this time the Tigers hung on for a win.
"Our players did a great job in the second half of that game. A lot of that started up front with our offensive and defensive lines. They were able to take control of the game," Riggs said.
Jay also figures to be a tough test for the Tigers. The Royals enter Friday's contest with a 6-2 record despite last Friday's 28-25 loss to Baker (Fla.). That setback severely damaged Jay's Class 1A district championship and playoff hopes.
"The loss to Baker was a pretty good upset so I'm sure they will be hungry to bounce back. They're a good team. They average close to 30 points a game and that doesn't happen by accident. It's another tough test for us," Riggs said.
Most of Jay's offense has centered around running back John Mark Patrick. Patrick has been both effective and a workhorse this season. His best game was probably two weeks ago against Graceville when he carried the ball 37 times for 203 yards.
"He doesn't have tremendous speed like some of the backs we've seen in recent weeks, but he runs with a lot of strength. He is the kind of back who likes to keep pounding at you. I'm sure he'll probbaly carry the ball around 30 times Friday if the situation allows. They like to control the clock with their running game, which is a lot like we try to do. When you play a team like that, you need to make every possession count because you may not get that many chances," Riggs said.
Although Jay usually relies on the run, Riggs said the Royals have an effective air game with quarterback Jessie Jernigan.
"He is a pretty accurate passer. He gets the ball to where it needs to go," Riggs said.
Despite their 8-1 overall record, the Tigers have had trouble putting 48 minutes of good football together. T.R. Miller was able to prevail last week against W.S. Neal despite the fact it had a first half where it lost three fumbles, had a touchdown called back due to a penalty and managed just 76 yards of offense.
"You're not going to win too many games with the mistakes we made in the first half of that game, especially against a quality opponent," Riggs said. "We've got to cut down on those mistakes. If we don't, we won't be around long in the playoffs."