Tigers pitch shutout against Dale County
By By RANDY WINTON Sports Writer
Slowly, steadily, the youth movement continues for the T.R. Miller Tigers.
Three weeks into the 2004 season, it has been a swarming, if not stifling defensive unit that has been the glue while the offense has dealt with the growing pains of having to replace 10 of 11 starters from a year ago.
That toughness has been the earmark of this top-ranked T.R. Miller football team, which moved to 3-0 on the year with the victory at Brewton Municipal Stadium Friday night.
In the process, junior quarterback Jordan Cauley enjoyed his best game yet.
In just his third start, the 5-8, 145-pounder completed five of nine passes for 115 yards and a touchdown. In the meantime, he calmly engineered an offense that gained 350 total yards.
That offense, which helped set the tone early when it scored two touchdowns in its first seven plays, got a boost from junior tailback Tim Atcher. In his first action of the season, Atcher rushed for 88 yards on nine carries and scored three touchdowns.
Until then, it is on the defensive side of the ball where the Tigers (3-0 overall, 2-0 in Region 1) are a well-oiled machine.
With its stingy brand of old school toughness, which has yielded an average of three points per game the first three weeks of the season, T.R. Miller pitched its first shutout. In allowing just 160 yards of total offense to the Warriors (1-2 overall, 1-1 in Region 1), the Tigers not only forced 10 Dale County punts (out of 11 possessions), but held the Warriors to nearly 100 yards below their season average.
In doing so, senior linebacker Tyler Shehan, who led the team with 123 tackles a year ago, had 11 stops and a caused fumble Friday night. Coming off his spectacular 17-tackle performance at Straughn a week ago, the 6-1, 195-pound Shehan already has 40 tackles on the year.
Gerald Banton had another impressive outing as well, as he had seven tackles, broke up three passes and blocked a punt, while Tye Walker and Keath Turner added five stops each. Turner also recovered a fumble.
While the defense continued its stingy play, it was bolstered by a 14-0 lead halfway through the first quarter. The Tigers' offense scored twice in its first seven plays of the game.
In fact, of its first three touchdowns scored, T.R. Miller's average drives were three plays, 56 yards and 1:17.
After a brilliant opening kickoff return of 54 yards by junior Antonio Gomez (and an additional 15 yards tacked on with a facemask penalty), the Tigers started their first possession from the Dale County 27-yard line. On the first play, Cauley hit senior Jacob Salter for a 23-yard gain to the four and Atcher bulled his way to the end zone on the next play for the game's initial touchdown. The point after attempt went wide, but the Tigers led, 6-0.
After the defense forced a punt on the Warriors' first possession, a 20-yard completion from Cauley to Javaris Drakeford, followed by a 19-yard run by Justin Gomez, got the ball to the Dale County 24.
On the next play, Cauley ran the option and pitched to Atcher as he was being hit. The latter took the pitch and covered the remaining 24 yards untouched to the end zone. Antonio Gomez kept on the option for the two-point conversion and the lead ballooned to 14-0 with 5:29 to play in the first quarter.
Three minutes into the second period, the Tigers struck again.
T.R. Miller, which started from its own 13, got an 11-yard run from Atcher to start the drive. On the second play, Antonio Gomez tossed a 36-yard completion to Damien Jackson to the Warrior 40. Atcher completed the drive when he swept around the right side and broke through the secondary for the long touchdown run. Baxley Raines' PAT kick was good and the Tigers went into the break up 21-0.
Dale County's lone sustained drive came at the start of the fourth quarter and carried the offense inside the Tigers' 30-yard line. A jarring hit by Shehan shook the ball loose at the 28 and Turner recovered to thwart the Warriors'only threat.
The T.R. Miller offense took full advantage of that opportunity. After five running plays gained 31 yards to the Dale County 41, Cauley connected with Salter, who made two knee-buckling moves on would-be defenders and glided 41 yards to paydirt for his second touchdown of the season to close out the scoring.
The Tigers remain at home this Friday for the second of three straight games when they host Abbeville (0-2 in Region, 1-2 overall), which lost to Straughn 42-6 Friday.
At T.R. Miller
Dale County 0 0 0 0 – 0
T.R. Miller 14 7 0 6 – 27
T.R. MILLER- Atcher 4 yard run (kick failed)
T.R. MILLER- Atcher 24 yard run (A. Gomez run)
T.R. MILLER- Atcher 40 yard run (Raines kick)
T.R. MILLER- Salter 41 yard pass from Cauley (kick failed)
First downs: T.R. Miller 15, Dale County 10
Total yards: T.R. Miller 350 (199 rushing, 151 passing); Dale County 160 (110 rushing, 50 passing)
Individual rushing: T.R. Miller- Atcher 9-88 3TD, J. Puryear 3-30, Gomez 2-28, A. Gomez 4-17, Jones 2-12, Barton 3-11, Cauley 3-9, Holland 2-2, Taylor 1-2; Dale County- Thomas 17-96, Wilson 3-9, Daniels 2-8, Johnson 6-7, Peter 3-4, Lester 1-2, Calhoun 3-0, McClain 1-(-1)
Individual passing: T.R. Miller- Cauley 5-9-115 1TD, A. Gomez 1-1-36; Dale County- Johnson 5-10-50
Individual receiving: T.R. Miller- Salter 2-64 1TD, A. Gomez 2-31, Jackson 1-36, Drakeford 1-20; Dale County- Peter 2-9, Thomas 1-21, Dewhirst 1-1, Calhoun 1-19
Individual punting: T.R. Miller- 3-124, 41.3 avg.; Dale County 10-262, 26.2. avg.
Penalties: T.R. Miller- 3-30; Dale County 3-25