Second season begins for Tigers
By By BRUCE HIXON Sports Editor
Through the first six weeks both the T.R. Miller Tigers and West Blocton Tigers were headed down the same road.
While T.R. Miller remained on its undefeated course for the remainder of the regular season, West Blocton took a sharp turn in the opposite direction.
Their paths will take a direct hit when they collide Friday at Brewton Municipal Stadium at 7 p.m. in the opening round of the Class 3A state playoffs.
West Blocton (4-3 in Region 3 and 6-4 overall) stormed out of the gate with a 6-0 record and was ranked among the top 10 teams in the state. After the quick start, West Blocton lost its final four games of the regular season to Clarke County, Aliceville, Midfield and most recently last Friday's 42-21 non-region contest against Oak Grove.
"They played the toughest part of their schedule the second half of the season and that is when their problems started. Clarke County, Aliceville and Midfield finished ahead of them in their region and Oak Grove is a good 4A team," T.R. Miller coach Jamie Riggs said.
Defense, or lack of, has been West Blocton's biggest downfall. The Tigers have given up 201 points in their four-game slide, an average of 50.3 per game.
Rush defense was West Blocton's weak link against Oak Grove. Oak Grove running back Greg Lindsay ran through the Tigers' defense for 225 yards and five touchdowns.
"Sometimes it's been their rush defense. Sometimes it's been their pass defense. There is no sugar coating it. When your defense is giving up 50 points a game (during the losing streak), you're struggling," Riggs said.
That should spell good news for a T.R. Miller offense that averaged 38.2 points a game in the regular season. That figure rose to 44.2 points over the final six games.
T.R. Miller (9-0) has not played since it concluded the regular season two weeks ago with its 42-6 win over Abbeville. This is the second time this season the Tigers have had a two-week layoff. They had a 15-day break between their Dale County and Andalusia games due to Hurricane Ivan.
"Even though we beat Andalusia (56-21) after that break, we came out pretty sloppy, especially on special teams," Riggs said. "We've practiced really well since we last played, but you just never know how a team will respond until it suits up again."
While West Blocton's defense has struggled, its offense is the reason why the Tigers are in the playoffs. West Blocton is averaging 26 points a game with four games 30 points or better.
"Their offense has given everybody trouble. They run the option real well with some misdirections. They're a lot like us in that don't tend to throw the ball a whole lot," Riggs said.
West Blocton has a sound running game with fullback Chris Creel (5-9, 186 lb. sr.) and tailbacks Corey Howard (5-8, 183 lb. sr.) and Steven Motley. The Tigers use a two-quarterback platoon system of Patrick LaFoy (5-6, 130 lb. jr.) and Adam Carroll (5-8, 154 lb. jr.).
"Creel is a good power runner, while Howard and Motley are their speed guys. I really don't see much difference in their quarterbacks. Neither throws much. They're more hand off guys," Riggs said. "They do have a pretty good tight end in Frankie Williams (6-1, 195 lb. soph.), who is also probably their best defensive player at defensive end."
The two weeks off have allowed T.R. Miller to get healthy.
"We should have everybody available this week. Some of them may not be 100 percent, but they should be able to play in at least a limited role," Riggs said.
Friday's winner will take on the Holtville (7-3)-Springville (9-1) survivor next Friday at 7 p.m. in the second round. If T.R. Miller wins, it would host Springville and it would travel to Holtville.
NOTE: T.R. Miller Picture Day will be held Thursday at 5 p.m. at Brewton Municipal Stadium.