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Cauley passes Tigers past Pike

By By RANDY WINTON Sports Writer
As a rule, coaches guard as best they can against their teams looking ahead.
In this case, there was nothing Jamie Riggs could do to prevent his T.R. Miller Tigers from anticipating their 2004 matchup with Pike County.
If truth were known, Riggs himself had trouble not thinking ahead. After all, from the moment his team lost 35-34 to the Bulldogs last Thanksgiving weekend in the semifinals of the Class 3A playoffs, this year's scheduled date had been chiseled in his mind.
As both teams entered Friday night's important clash unbeaten in Region 1, the game would prove to be a testing ground for these Tigers.
As a result, in the biggest test of the year, T.R. Miller passed.
And passed, and passed, and passed some more.
In fact, the top-ranked Tigers (5-0 in region, 7-0 overall) passed so much and junior quarterback Jordan Cauley hooked up with wideouts Jacob Salter and Mikel Riggs so often, all three had the best night of their respective careers in leading their team to a surprisingly easy 52-27 win in Brundidge Friday night.
Cauley completed 10 of 13 passes for 332 yards and four touchdowns. Three of those scores went to Salter, a senior who seemed no less than a blur to the Bulldog defense most of the night. Salter caught five passes for 179 yards and three touchdowns. He also added a key interception on the defensive side.
Riggs, a junior, grabbed four balls for 145 yards and another touchdown. He came within half a yard of a second touchdown, but was stopped just short of paydirt early in the game.
That unfinished business was exorcising the demons of four straight losses to Pike County (4-1 in region, 5-2 overall), including two last year suffered in the most heart-breaking of ways.
In the regular season matchup, the Bulldogs went 65 yards in the last 40 seconds to win a 27-21 nailbiter in Brewton. Then a muffed point after attempt cost T.R. Miller a 35-34 overtime loss in the semifinals in Brundidge. Pike County went on to win the Class 3A state championship the next week.
From that painful moment, Friday's date had been circled on the calendar.
Unfinished business indeed.
In reality, the only thing riding on this game was the top spot in the Region 1 standings and a number one seed in the playoffs.
Still, from a mental standpoint, the importance of getting this win will go a long way in measuring the success of these Tigers.
For the record, Cauley has now completed 29 of his 49 passes (59 percent) for 902 yards and 10 touchdowns without suffering a single interception.
As it was, that execution and the resulting protection allowed the T.R. Miller offense to have its way with the Bulldogs. In addition to the passing game, the Tigers got another 182 yards rushing.
Led by Tim Atcher on the ground, the Tigers piled up 514 yards of offense. Atcher led all rushers with 111 yards on 15 carries and a touchdown.
As it halted Pike County's vaunted offensive prowess, the T.R. Miller defense was once again led by the likes of Keath Turner, Wade McCall and Tye Walker.
Turner and Walker each had eight tackles, with Turner adding two key quarterback sacks and a fumble recovery. McCall had 10 tackles and broke up a pass.
In a series that has seen Pike County score first in nearly every game recently, the Tigers knew the importance of drawing first blood in this one.
After T.R. Miller took the opening kickoff and started from its own 35, the Tigers opened with a 25-yard run from Atcher and a 40-yard catch from Riggs, who got to the one before Nykeem Barton bulled his way over for the initial score of the game.
The second half's first possession opened a 35-21 lead and effectively put the game away when Atcher culminated a 50-yard
See TIGERS Page 8
drive with an eight-yard run.
Baxley Raines, who was perfect on all seven of his point after attempts despite a pulled groin in his kicking leg, added a late 27-yard field goal in the fourth quarter.
Before the first half ended, this one had all the markings of a track meet. The Tigers jumped out to a 21-7 lead thanks to a Cauley-to-Salter inside screen pass, whom the latter turned into a 47-yard touchdown. Cauley followed with a one-yard sneak only to have Pike County cut it to 21-14 on the first play of the second quarter.
Forcing two punts on successive defensive stops, the Tigers' offense punched in two more scores before the half.
With 6:17 to go and starting its own 28, T.R. Miller needed four plays before Riggs turned a post route into a 58-yard score to make it 28-14. Three minutes later, it was a perfectly-executed out-and-up by Cauley to Salter that resulted in a 66-yard score.
Even though Pike County speedster James Jackson returned the ensuing
kickoff 88 yards to close the gap to 35-21 at the half, the damage was too great to overcome for the Bulldogs.
The Tigers tacked on Raines' field goal and Salter's final touchdown catch from 25 yards out at the 3:26 mark to close out the scoring.
Friday's victory clinched a playoff berth for T.R. Miller. The Tigers can clinch the Region 1 championship Friday at Brewton Munipal Stadium with a win over arch rival W.S. Neal in the Battle of Murder Creek. The Blue Eagles fell to Straughn Friday 16-15 on a last-second field goal.
At Pike County
T.R. Miller 21 14 7 10 – 52
Pike County 6 15 0 6 – 27
T.R. MILLER- Barton 1 yard run Raines kick)
PIKE COUNTY- Mathis 14 yard pass from A. Foster (kick failed)
T.R. MILLER- Salter 47 yard pass from Cauley (Raines kick)
T.R. MILLER- Cauley 1 yard run (Raines kick)
PIKE COUNTY- Jackson 4 yard run (Jackson run)
T.R. MILLER- Mikel Riggs 58 yard pass from Cauley (Raines kick)
T.R. MILLER- Salter 66 yard pass from Cauley (Raines kick)
PIKE COUNTY- Jackson 88 yard kickoff return (Barrow kick)
T.R. MILLER- Atcher 8 yard run (Raines kick)
T.R. MILLER- Raines 27 yard field goal
PIKE COUNTY- Reynolds 2 yard run (run failed)
T.R. MILLER- Salter 25 yard pass from Cauley (Raines kick)
Stats
First downs: T.R. Miller 18, Pike County 15
Total yards: T.R. Miller 514, Pike County 271
Individual rushing: T.R. Miller- Atcher 15-111 1TD, Puryear 6-31, Jones 2-30, J. Gomez 7-26, Barton 2-5 1TD, Cauley 5-(-21) 1TD; Pike County- Barrow 9-67, Jackson 14-58 1TD, Reynolds 4-22 1TD, D. Foster 2-17, A. Foster 6-(-5), Wilson 1-(-12)
Individual passing: T.R. Miller- Cauley 10-13-332 4TD; Pike County- A. Foster 8-17-123 1TD 1INT
Individual receiving: T.R. Miller- Salter 5-179 3TD, Riggs 4-145 1TD, Drakeford 1-8; Pike County- Mathis 4-88 1TD, Jackson 1-24, Reynolds 1-6, Barrow 1-4, Caffie 1-1
Punting: T.R. Miller- none; Pike County- 2-68, 34.0 avg.
Penalties: T.R. Miller 6-50, Pike County 2-29