No letdown as Tigers rip Headland
By By RANDY WINTON Sports Writer
When you are undefeated and the top-ranked team in the state and your Homecoming opponent is winless, the formula for success is a simple one: score early and often, put the game away, and get everyone who dressed a chance to play.
If you are scoring at home, the T.R. Miller Tigers were a perfect three-for-three in completing that formula Friday night. The result was an easy-as-you-please 42-7 victory over the hapless Headland Rams in a Class 3A Region 1 matchup at Brewton Municipal Stadium.
In fact, the outcome of the game was decided before Homecoming queen Erin Byrne had even gotten used to wearing her crown.
More importantly, the victory, which preserved the Tigers' perfect mark (4-0 in region, 6-0 overall), set up next week's clash of the region titans when T.R. Miller travels to Pike County (4-0 in region, 5-1 overall). The battle will go a long way in effectively deciding which will be the top seed when the playoffs roll around.
Pike County, the defending Class 3A champion, has won three straight over the Tigers, including an overtime thriller in the semifinals last year.
Sandwiched around the distractions of Homecoming week was a great win at Slocomb a week ago and the impending matchup with Pike County, which whipped Dale County 53-33 Friday night.
In handling their business, T.R. Miller was efficient in dismantling the Rams (0-4 in region, 0-6 overall) by scoring on each of its first six possessions. The Tigers took a 35-0 halftime lead before Damien Jackson put the final nail in the coffin when he returned the second half kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown to make it 42-0. From that point on, it was just a matter of getting all 60 players who dressed into the game.
With the starters in, T.R. Miller was dominant on both sides of the ball.On offense, where few of the starters played after the half, running backs Nick Puryear and Nykeem Barton each had two touchdowns. Puryear touched the ball five times and netted 43 yards while Barton scored on a rushing touchdown and a 61-yard pass-and-catch from quarterback Jordan Cauley. Briddell Jones, who had three rushes for 25 yards, added the other touchdown. Sophomore kicker Baxley Raines was true on all seven of his point after attempts tries.
On the defensive side, guys like Steven Robinson, Wade McCall, Keath Turner, Michael Mashburn and Justin Gomez were in Headland's backfield so often, the Rams should award them a school letter.
Aside from a 51-yard run on the Rams' third play of the game, the Tigers clamped down. From that point on, Headland had minus-11 rushing yards through three quarters.
In doing so, the Tigers forced their visitors to punt on seven of their nine
offensive series (the Rams lost a fumble on another and finally scored on their final possession of the fourth quarter).
As a result, the T.R. Miller offense benefited from great field position all night. Six of its nine possessions started in Ram territory. In fact, of those six drives, the average first play started at the Headland 29-yard line.
Puryear initiated the onslaught at the 4:16 mark of the first quarter when he plunged over from the two-yard line to complete a seven-play, 84-yard drive. The possession was highlighted by a 50-yard rollout pass from Cauley to senior Jacob Salter.
From there, the Tigers' average drive was three plays and 27 yards in scoring their next 28 points of the first half.
Barton tallied from three yards out to make 14-0. An eight-yard run by Puryear made it 21-0 with 9:31 to go in the second quarter, before Jones added his first touchdown on another eight yarder just two minutes later.
Barton added his second touchdown when he took a pass from Cauley in the flat and turned it up for a 61-yard score.
Cauley, who has thrown for 100-plus yards and at least one touchdown in the last three games, finished two-for-four for 111 yards.
The Tigers closed out their scoring the first time they touched the ball in the third quarter when senior Jackson corralled the second-half kickoff, broke through the initial wave and raced 94 yards for the score.
Headland, which has not enjoyed a winning season in 16 years, finally got on the board at the 7:35 mark of the fourth quarter when Chris Jackson pulled down a Justin Thomas pass from the four to complete a 12-play, 80-yard drive. Five of the Rams' first downs came on that possession, as they converted three third-down tries and another on fourth down.
With the Homecoming win put to bed, the Tigers are now able to concentrate on the game they have been looking forward to since last year's heartbreaking Class 3A semifinal loss.
In addition to the fact a victory at Pike County would be a big step towards the Region 1 championship, a win Friday would also clinch T.R. Miller's 15th straight playoff berth.
At T.R. Miller
Headland 0 0 0 7 – 7
T.R. Miller 14 21 7 0 – 42
T.R. MILLER- Puryear 2 yard run (Raines kick)
T.R. MILLER- Barton 3 yard run (Raines kick)
T.R. MILLER- Puryear 8 yard run (Raines kick)
T.R. MILLER- Jones 8 yard run (Raines kick)
T.R. MILLER- Barton 61 pass from Cauley (Raines kick)
T.R. MILLER- Jackson 94 kickoff return (Raines kick)
HEADLAND- Jackson 4 pass from Thomas (Fields kick)
First downs: T.R. Miller 12, Headland 6
Total yards: T.R. Miller 276 (165 rushing, 111 passing), Headland 94 (45 rushing, 49 passing)
Individual rushing: T.R. Miller- Puryear 5-43, 1TD, Holland 8-33, Jones 4-30 1TD, Taylor 8-24, Barton 4-16, 1TD J. Gomez 1-7; Headland- Smith 7-48, Davis 13-32, Rhodes 1-2, Jackson 1-1, Salter 1-(-1), Condry 2(-5), Wessinger 1-(-5), Thomas 4-(-7)
Individual passing: T.R. Miller- Cauley 2-4-111 1TD, Raines 0-1-0; Headland- Thomas 3-7-49 1TD
Individual receiving: T.R. Miller- Barton 1-61 1TD, Salter 1-50; Headland- Smith 2-45, Jackson 1-4 1TD
Individual punting: T.R. Miller- 1-18, 18.0 avg.; Headland- 7-181, 25.8 avg.
Penalties: T.R. Miller 1-10, Headland 4-30