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Tigers open region season with tough test at Straughn

By By BRUCE HIXON Sports Editor
Both the T.R. Miller Tigers and Straughn Tigers have hopes of contending for the Class 3A Region 1 championship.
After this week, one of those squads will be tied for the top spot, while the other will be tied for the bottom spot. The region season kicks off Friday for both schools when they hook up at Straughn at 7:30 p.m. in an early season showdown.
"Straughn is a tough opponent to draw for the first game of the region season. I wish we had them a little later in the season, but that is just the way the schedule fell," T.R. Miller coach Jamie Riggs said.
Both squads kicked off their respective campaigns with non-region wins last week. T.R. Miller had little trouble in its 42-6 triumph at Escambia County, while Straughn won a tight defensive struggle at Andalusia 10-0.
As the score might indicate, Straughn was unable to generate a lot of offense against Andalusia. However, the Tigers did get a couple of big plays to set up the win.
Sophomore running back Justin Freeney scored the lone touchdown on Straughn's second possession of the game with a 49-yard run.
"He isn't a real big kid, but he is very quick. Straughn usually tries to set up plays for him where he can get to the outside," Riggs said.
The only other score in that Straughn-Andalusia game was a 28-yard field goal by BoBo McVay. McVay also missed a 41-yard attempt in that game.
"McVay has a good leg. The fact they had enough confidence in him to even try a 41-yarder is evidence of that. He also hit his kickoffs pretty deep," Riggs said.
The kicking game was also a strength for T.R. Miller against Escambia County where sophomore Baxley Raines was five-for-five in point after attempts and had consistently deep kickoffs.
"We were real pleased with the way Baxley kicked. That was a big concern going into the game because that part of our game had been pretty rough in practice. Field position could be a big key to this game. At this point in the season, the offenses have not usually clicked on all cylinders yet so field position is very important. That's where the kicking game comes into play," Riggs said.
While Straughn quarterback Alphonso Freeney has the ability to complete some passes, he may be a bigger threat as a runner.
"He isn't afraid to take the ball and run down field with it. Our tackling wasn't as good as what I would have liked against Escambia County and it's something we need to do a better job this week," Riggs said.
T.R. Miller completed just one pass in its victory, albeit a 72-yard touchdown strike from Jordan Cauley to Jacob Salter. Both Antonio Gomez and Cauley received several snaps in that game and Riggs said both may see significant work this week at quarterback as well.
"At this point, neither Jordan nor Antonio have separated themselves. They both have different strengths we can use. Perhaps within another week or two we may settle on one of them for the position, but we're not there yet," Riggs said. "Even though we only completed one pass last week, we showed some promise in that area. We thought we had one touchdown pass completed, but it was called back on an inadvertent whistle. We also had some drops by our receivers, who need to do a better job of hanging on to the ball."
Riggs said Straughn has a lot of speed on the defensive side.
"Like us, they're pretty inexperienced up front. However, they have a lot of speed, especially on their defensive front line and also at their inside linebacker position," Riggs said.