Tigers try to avoid Headland trap
By By BRUCE HIXON Sports Editor
They are coming off a game where they played a team (Slocomb) that shared the region lead with them. Next week, they play another team (Pike County) that also shares the region lead.
In between, the T.R. Miller Tigers host a winless Headland Rams team Friday at 7:30 p.m. Sounds like a trap game, right?
"It's certainly something we have to guard against. We can't afford to look back nor can we afford to look ahead. We have to take care of the business at hand," T.R. Miller coach Jamie Riggs said.
The Tigers will also need to avoid the annual Homecoming activity distractions that will be associated with Friday's game.
"Homecoming has always been a big deal at the school. When it's time to take care of the Homecoming activities, we'll need to do that. When it's time to care of the football part of it, we need to concentrate on that. We've usually done a pretty good job with that in the past, but this, of course, is a different year," Riggs said.
The Tigers (3-0 in Class 3A Region 1, 5-0 overall) are coming off last Friday's 35-20 road win at Slocomb that reduced the top of the region leaderboard from three to two teams. Meanwhile Headland's struggles continued last week, as it dropped to 0-3 in region play and 0-5 overall with its 36-7 loss to Straughn.
Brewton figures to be a tough place for the Rams to give first-year head coach and former Northview assistant coach Donnie Smith his first victory.
"They've had a lot of coaching turnover in recent years. It takes some time for a coach to get his system installed the way he wants it and I'm sure that has a little something to do with their struggles. Headland has some talent, but it's pretty young. I think they are a team that can be pretty good in a couple of years," Riggs said.
The T.R. Miller coach indicated one of Headland's top troublesome areas has been its blocking. Headed into the season, line play figured to be one of the Rams' strengths. Headland returned four starters in that area led by guards Stewart Arrington (5-9, 185 lb. jr.) and Justin Slater (5-10, 190 lb. soph.) and tackles Sam Walker (5-11, 225 lb. sr.) and Michael Rhodes (5-10, 200 lb. jr.).
"Their offensive and defensive lines aren't real big, but they do have some quickness," Riggs said.
The Rams also have their signal caller back from a year ago in the person of Chris Johnson (6-2, 200 lb. sr.). Two of his top receivers have been Anthony Smith (6-3, 195 lb. sr.) and Colby Gay (6-0, 170 lb. jr.). Headland's running game is centered around tailback D.J. Condry (5-10, 180 lb. sr.) and fullback Dwon Roy (5-10, 195 lb. sr.).
"They've got pretty good size with their passing game. Johnson is pretty tall and he can see over the line well. His receiving targets have good size too. At this point, Headland probably passes the ball better than they run it and that's how we're expecting them to attack our defense," Riggs said.
T.R. Miller probably had its most balanced offensive attack against Slocomb where it amassed 358 yards, 217 rushing and 141 passing.
"We did a good job of really mixing things up and we also did a good job of getting a lot of people involved," Riggs said.
Junior quarterback Jordan Cauley probably had its best game where he completed seven of eight passes for 141 yards.
"Jordan seems to get a little more relaxed every week . He is making better decisions now than what he did earlier in the season. I think a big key to that is Jordan is simply getting a lot more reps," Riggs said.
Another key to T.R. Miller's success on offense has been up front at the line. Headed into the season T.R. Miller returned just one starter, senior guard Michael Mashburn.
"We've been real pleased with the way Michael has played for us both in leadership and in performance. Tyler Chapman has also stepped up on the line and played really well on both sides of the ball," Riggs said.
Despite having missed the Tigers' first two games, junior running back Tim Atcher took over the team individual rushing lead for the season with his 80 yards against Slocomb.
"Tim probably had his best game of the season against Slocomb. He ran really hard right at the defense," Riggs said.
The Tigers are expected to be a little shorthanded in the backfield against Headland, as junior running back/quarterback Antonio Gomez is still nursing a knee injury he sustained last week.
"We've been pretty fortunate on the injury front so far this season until now. Now we've got quite a few guys who are banged up. Antonio probably won't play this week. We're hoping to get him ready by next week when we play at Pike County," Riggs said.
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