Slow start, big finish for Tigers
By By RANDY WINTON Sports Wtiter
When it rains, it pours. Trouble is, at least for Andalusia's football team Saturday afternoon at Brewton Municipal Stadium, it turned into a flood from which it could not recover.
Down by just a touchdown at the end of the third quarter, the Class 4A Bulldogs (2-2) experienced a miserably helpless five-minute span in which they literally saw an opportunity to knock off T.R. Miller, the top-ranked team in Class 3A, slip from their grasp.
More appropriately, the football itself slipped from Andalusia's grasp three times and the opportunistic Tigers (4-0) exploded for four unanswered touchdowns to turn a tenuous 28-21 lead into an insurmountable 56-21 cushion and eventual win.
Take away that spurt and the game was still up for grabs. If not for the untimely turnovers, and T.R. Miller's ability to cash in on each one, Andalusia might have had a chance.
The Bulldogs were doomed by the fact they fumbled eight times (losing six), completed no passes (but had one intercepted) and had a punt blocked. Three of those lost fumbles and the blocked punt all contributed to the Tigers' 28-point, fourth quarter onslaught.
"Hey, they got after us for three quarters," T.R. Miller coach Jamie Riggs said. "They had that bad five minutes and we were able to take advantage of it, but up until then they were right there and had a chance. We feel pretty good about coming out of this one with the win."
Still, T.R. Miller had troubles of its own at times. Coming off an 15-day layoff thanks to Hurricane Ivan, the Tigers looked a bit sluggish. They fumbled the opening kickoff, which Jared McNeil scooped up and returned 26 yards for a touchdown to give the Bulldogs a 7-0 lead.
They also gave up two touchdown runs of 68 yards each as the Bulldogs closed the first half down only 28-21.
"They are big and strong and they disrupted a lot of things we tried to do," Riggs said. "We're still having problems giving up big plays on defense, protecting our passing game and completing throws on offense. Because of that, we aren't maintaining drives and we're not good enough right now to overcome that. The bottom line is that we won and I'm happy about that," Riggs said.
Although protection broke down at times, junior quarterback Jordan Cauley was able to execute the passing game and found success. Cauley completed passes to four different receivers, as he connected on four of six tries for 131 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Leading 14-7 after a Tyler Shehan fumble recovery in the end zone and a 28-yard scoring run by Tim Atcher, Cauley connected with Damien Jackson on an inside screen that went the distance from 42 yards. Later, during the decisive fourth-quarter outburst, Cauley found senior speedster Jacob Salter on a post that went for a 33-yard touchdown.
"At times, we did some things right," Riggs said. "We gave up some big plays, but made a couple of big ones. Those are signs that we continue to make some progress as a young team. It's a process, but we'll get there."
As the Tigers built a 21-7 lead, the Bulldogs cut the lead to seven points when Michael Berry exploded off left tackle for the first of Andalusia's 68-yard scores. The drive was extended when the Tigers had too many men on the field as Andalusia was punting. The penalty provided a first down and Berry scored on the next play.
Now ahead just 21-14, Jackson made another big play, this time on defense, to set up a Tiger touchdown. His interception at the Andalusia 35 and subsequent 28-yard return gave T.R. Miller the ball at the seven. On fourth-and-goal from the two, Nykeem Barton bulled his way over for the score.