Tigers claim battle of unbeatens
By By RANDY WINTON Sports Writer
Jordan Cauley walked out of the dressing room following T.R. Miller's 35-20 win at Slocomb Friday night and flashed that winning smile. This was the night his top-ranked team had waited for quite some time and the junior quarterback was not about to let this opportunity to enjoy the moment get away.
Who could blame him? Until now it had been the defense that garnered most of the attention. Even as the Tigers forged a 4-0 record, they waited for youth and inexperience on offense to come into their own.
If Friday night was any indication, the young T.R. Miller offense appears to have arrived.
In its most recent Region 1 win, Class 3A's top-ranked Tigers showcased an offense ready to make a name for itself. It could not have come at a better time.
The important win over the upstart Red Tops team, who have made the jump from Class 2A in 2004 and started 4-0 en route to a No. 9 ranking, put T.R. Miller in the driver's seat in the region standings. It is one of two remaining unbeatens in the region along with reigning Class 3A champion Pike County, which maintained its share of the lead Friday with a 41-0 win over Abbeville.
More than that, it was a night in which the curtain went up and the offensive unit shined bright as it took center stage.
Converting its first six third down conversions and seven of nine overall, the Tigers ran out to a 28-6 halftime lead and never looked back. By the end, a balanced offensive attack that included 217 rushing yards and another 141 through the air was evidence of a young offensive unit coming of age.
Cauley, the cool-under-fire quarterback, had every reason to be happy.
He benefited from an offensive line that masterfully took control of the line of scrimmage. That allowed him to engineer three impressive first-half scoring drives (17 plays, 66 yards; nine plays, 59 yards; eight plays, 73 yards), which set the tone for the game.
Cauley's joy came on a night where he connected on seven of eight passes for 141 yards and a touchdown. Mikel Riggs caught three of those for 47 yards, while senior Damien Jackson hauled in a 46-yarder for a touchdown. A penalty late in the game cost his team another touchdown pass (to senior speedster Jacob Salter) from 35 yards out.
Quieting the crowd was as important as stopping the Red Tops' explosive offense, which had been averaging 300 yards and 31 points a game.
The Tigers (5-0 overall, 3-0 in region) did both. Twenty-one second quarter points put a pall over the crowd's earlier excitement. That aforementioned stingy defense did its job as well on senior running back Ty Jones (145.3 yards per game, with seven touchdowns) and junior quarterback Justin Myles (who had completed 50 percent of his passes with two touchdowns).
Jones, who is being recruited by the likes of Troy State, Southern Mississippi and Jacksonville State, was held to just 39 yards on nine carries, while Myles completed just seven-of-19 tosses for 103 yards. The bulk of both numbers came as the Red Tops made a mad dash in the final quarter to overcome such a lopsided deficit to make the final score respectable.
It did nt take long for T.R. Miller to get untracked. After they forced a punt on Slocomb's first possession, the visitors needed just four plays to get on the board.
From their own 39, the Tigers misfired on a halfback pass, then got a four-yard run by Tim Atcher. On third-and-six, Cauley threw a screen pass to Riggs, who broke loose for 18 yards, before Nykeem Barton took a dive off left tackle and rambled 39 yards for the score. Baxley Raines booted his first of five point after attempts and T.R. Miller led 7-0.
Slocomb (4-1 overall, 2-1 in Region 1) answered on its next possession, as it culminated an eight-play, 60-yard drive when Myles hit Brett Singletary from eight yards out. The drive was kept alive when Myles had previously hooked up with Bernard Mitchell on a 40-yard completion on a third-and-14 play. The kick failed and the Tigers' lead was intact at 7-6 with 5:39 to go in the first quarter.
In what might have been the most telling possession of the game, T.R. Miller put together that masterful 17-play drive after the ensuing kickoff. As they completed the drive with a four-yard run by Atcher (who led all runners with 80 yards on nine carries), the Tigers converted all four third down tries.
Now up 14-6 with 7:48 to go in the half, the Tigers poured it on with a couple more scores before intermission.
Cauley's picture-perfect 46-yarder to a streaking Jackson made it 21-6. Justin Gomez then scored the first of his two touchdowns from nine yards out that bolstered the lead to 28-6.
If that was not enough, the Tigers tacked on another seven points when Gomez culminated a nine-play drive to start the second half with a one-yard burst and suddenly it was 35-6.
Slocomb's offense finally got untracked by the end of the third quarter and made it 35-14 when Myles scored from 11 yards out and Jones converted on the two-point run with 1:42 remaining in the third quarter.
The Red Tops tallied another touchdown six minutes later when Jones ended an 11-play, 82-yard drive with a 10-yard score to provide for the final margin.
Antonio Gomez, who hurt his knee early in the second quarter and did not return, will be evaluated Monday.
The Tigers return home Friday to take on region foe Headland at 7:30 p.m. in its Homecoming game at Brewton Municipal Stadium. Headland, which is winless on the season, is coming off Friday's 36-7 setback to Straughn.
T. R. Miller 7 21 7 0 – 35
Slocomb 6 0 8 6 – 20
T.R. MILLER- Barton 39 yard run (Raines kick)
SLOCOMB- Singletary 8 yard pass from Myles (kick failed)
T.R. MILLER- Atcher 4 yard run (Raines kick)
T.R. MILLER- Jackson 46 yard pass from Cauley (Raines kick)
T.R. MILLER- J. Gomez 9 yard run (Raines kick)
T.R. MILLER- J. Gomez 1 yard run (Raines kick)
SLOCOMB- Myles 7 yard run (Jones run)
SLOCOMB- Jones 10 yard run (kick failed)
First downs: T.R. Miller 16, Slocomb 17
Total yards: T.R. Miller 358 (217 rushing, 141 passing); Slocomb 237 (134 rushing, 103 passing)
Individual rushing: T.R. Miller- Atcher 19-80 1TD, Barton 9-79 1TD, J. Gomez 6-45 2TD, Cauley 2-9, A. Gomez 2-2, Puryear 1-2; Slocomb- Myles 12-43 1TD, Jones 9-39 1TD, Ledford 2-18, Mitchell 1-17, Harris 2-7, Jones 3-5, Keller 1-5, Singletary 1-(-2)
Individual passing: T.R. Miller- Cauley 7-8-141 1TD, A. Gomez 0-1-0; Raines 0-1-0 1INT; Slocomb- Myles 7-19-103 1TD
Individual receiving: T.R. Miller- Riggs 3-47, Jackson 1-46 1TD, Drakeford 1-25, A. Gomez 1-14, Barton 1-9, Slocomb- Jones 3-37, Mitchell 2-26, Singletary 2-26 1 TD
Individual punting: T.R. Miller- Raines 2-89, 44.5 avg.; Slocomb 3-76, 25.3 avg.
Penalties: T.R. Miller 5-60, Slocomb 3-15