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Tigers, Slocomb battle for region lead

By By BRUCE HIXON Sports Editor
With four games still left on the region schedule after this week, there are still plenty of contests that will decide this year's Class 3A Region 1 champion.
On the other hand, the T.R. Miller Tigers' game at Slocomb Friday at 7:30 p.m. will have a big say on that final outcome.
Both the Tigers and Redtops come into the game unbeaten in both region play at 2-0 and overall at 4-0. Meanwhile Pike County, which hosts Abbeville Friday, is also unbeaten in region play.
"It's obviously a big game and it's a tough challenge for us to go over there. They have a pretty small stadium and the stands are real close to the field. They will have a lot of people there so it makes for a tough environment," T.R. Miller coach Jamie Riggs said. "Even regardless of the outcome, there are still a lot of key games left after this one."
The smaller confines of Slocomb's stadium can be linked to the fact the Redtops were a Class 2A school until this season when they were bumped up to 3A. The move up in classification has not hurt Slocomb, which has beaten Geneva County, Headland, W.S. Neal and most recently Friday's 46-16 win over Houston Academy.
If there is one knock so far against Slocomb's success, it is the fact the four teams the Redtops have beaten are a combined 2-10 and one of those two wins came when two of Slocomb's opponents (Geneva County's win over Houston Academy) played each other.
"I think they're a legitimate team. They've won 23 games the last two years and they're 4-0 this year so they're used to winning," Riggs said. "Slocomb doesn't have a lot of depth, but the players they do have are very talented. Pike County proved last year you don't have to be very deep to be a good team."
The Tigers will try to find a way to slow down a potent Slocomb running game, which is led by running back Ty Jones (5-10, 185 lb. sr.).
"Jones reminds me a lot of the way Alphonso Gross was over at W.S. Neal. He isn't real big, but he has very shifty moves and has a lot of speed. With skills like that, we'll obviously need to do a good job of containment against him," Riggs said.
While Slocomb relies on the run, it can go to the air with quarterback Justin Myles (6-0, 182 lb. jr.). Myles may have had
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his best outing two games ago against W.S. Neal when he completed four of six passes for 154 yards.
"Slocomb runs the wing-T offense and they use the run to set up the pass. Myles throws a good deep ball and their receivers do a good job of getting open," Riggs said.
Despite Saturday's 56-21 win over Andalusia, the T.R. Miller coach said his team has plenty of areas that need of improvement.
"For the first three games, we did a good job of tackling and not giving up the big play. Our tackling got pretty sloppy at times against Andalusia and we gave up a couple of long touchdown runs," Riggs said. "We also had some penalties at bad times. There were a couple of times we gave Andalusia first downs with fourth down penalties."
After two games of virtually no passing offense, quarterback Jordan Cauley has thrown for 246 yards and three touchdowns the last two games.
"We still need to get better especially with our protection, but we're starting to make some big plays with our passing game. Jacob Salter and Javaris Drakeford have made some big receptions for us. In fact, three of Jacob's four catches this year have gone for touchdowns. We probably haven't been getting the ball to them enough," Riggs said.
Special teams had both positives and negatives against Andalusia. Baxley Raines was eight-for-eight in point after attempts, averaged 45.5 yards on two punts and his kickoffs were in or near the endzone. On the flip side, T.R. Miller fumbled the opening kickoff and had it returned for a touchdown. The Tigers also lost a fumbled punt.
"Baxley had a great day kicking for us, but we didn't cover the kicks as well as we needed. We also had the fumble on the kickoff that really hurt at the time," Riggs said.
NOTE: There will be a pep rally for the Tigers Thursday at 5:30 p.m. at the TRM Gym.