Tigers roar into second round
By By BRUCE HIXON Sports Editor
It was almost too easy. Two touchdowns in their first three offensive plays and a 21-0 lead before the first quarter ended.
While the T.R. Miller Tigers had a few second quarter hiccups that briefly allowed West Blocton to get back into the game, they made a strong second half recovery to steamroll their way to a 48-19 triumph at Brewton Municipal Stadium Friday in the opening round of the Class 3A state playoffs.
Junior running backs Nick Puryear and Briddell Jones slashed their way through the opposing Tigers' defense for a combined 262 yards and six touchdowns. Puryear had 159 of those rushing yards on 13 attempts with touchdown runs of 36, 1, 10 and 17 yards. Meanwhile Jones racked up 109 yards rushing on just eight attempts with scoring runs of eight and 28 yards.
"Nick just runs so hard with the ball, but perhaps just as important is how well he takes care of the ball. We've used Nick at both fullback and tailback and he has done real well at both spots," T.R. Miller coach Jamie Riggs said. "Briddell also ran extremely well. The more work we give him, the better he seems to get."
Puryear and Jones were just part of a T.R. Miller offense that amassed 421 yards of total offense (325 of which came on the ground.
"We figured this would be a pretty high scoring game and their offense caused us some problems, especially in the second quarter. One problem you often get when you get a big lead that quickly is you tend to relax and I think we did that. In the second half, we kept our composure and went back to our strength, which is our offensive line," Riggs said.
Puryear gave a flash of the kind of night he would enjoy on T.R. Miller's first offensive play when he scored on a 36-yard touchdown run at the 10:11 mark in the first quarter. Baxley Raines' point after kick made it 7-0.
It took the host Tigers "twice as long" to score on their next offensive series. On their second play of the possession, quarterback Jordan Cauley connected with Jacob Salter on a 33-yard touchdown strike. Raines' PAT made it 14-0 with 7:10 left in the opening frame.
Salter stepped up on the defensive side moments later when he intercepted an Adam Carroll pass and returned it 30 yards to the West Blocton 33.
After two touchdowns in three offensive plays, T.R. Miller had to "grind" out a five-play scoring march that ended on a one-yard plunge by Puryear on a fourth-and-goal situation. Raines' PAT made it 21-0 with 1:22 left in the first quarter.
West Blocton, which ended its season with a 6-5 record but with five straight losses after a 6-0 start, got on the board late in the first half with a seven-play, 61-yard drive. A key 21-yard run by Steven Motley with a late hit penalty against T.R. Miller tacked on set up a five-yard touchdown run by Corey Howard. Michael Hodge's PAT kick cut the T.R. Miller lead to 21-7 with 2:57 left in the first half.
A quick defensive stop and an eight-yard punt quickly put West Blocton back in business.
The visiting Tigers got a big 48-yard pass from Carroll to Howard. Howard then scored on a two-yard run on the next play with 14 ticks left in the half. Even though the conversion attempt failed, T.R. Miller's once comfortable lead had been sliced to a one-possession advantage of 21-13.
A big key to T.R. Miller's 10-0 record has been the way it has started second halves this season.
The Tigers came through in that area again Friday when they quickly went 61 yards on five plays. Puryear scored his third touchdown of the night on a 10-yard run. Raines' kick made it 28-13 at the 9:28 mark in the quarter.
T.R. Miller's best scoring possession was probably the next one, as it covered 84 yards in just six plays.
While Justin Gomez covered nearly half that distance with a 41-yard run, it was Jones who crashed into the endzone from eight yards out. This time Raines' missed the conversion, which kept the lead at 34-13 with 3:16 left in the third quarter.
Two fourth quarter touchdowns secured T.R. Miller's victory. Puryear recorded his fourth score of the night with a 10-yard run with 8:44 left. Raines' kick made it 41-13.
Jones had the final T.R. Miller score with a 28-yard run with 5:28 left. Raines' sixth PAT o the game made it 48-13.
West Blocton got one final score with 3:05 left when Carroll threw a four-yard touchdown pass to Michael Bryan that accounted for the final piece of the 48-19 victory.
The win sends T.R. Miller into the second round where it will host Springville next Friday at 7 p.m. Springville advanced with a 48-33 win over Holtville. The winner of the T.R. Miller-Springville game will play the Midfield-Sumiton Christian winner the following week in the quarterfinals.
At T.R. Miller
West Blocton 0 13 0 6 – 19
T.R. Miller 21 0 13 14 – 48
T.R. MILLER- Puryear- 36 yard run (Raines kick)
T.R. MILLER- Salter 33 yard pass from Cauley (Raines kick)
T.R. MILLER- Puryear 1 yard run (Raines kick)
WEST BLOCTON- Howard 5 yard run (Hodge kick)
WEST BLOCTON- Howard 2 yard run (kick failed)
T.R. MILLER- Puryear 10 yard run (Raines kick)
T.R. MILLER- Jones 8 yard run (kick failed)
T.R. MILLER- Puryear 17 yard run (Raines kick)
T.R. MILLER- Jones 28 yard run (Raines kick)
WEST BLOCTON- Bryan 4 yard pass from Carroll (pass failed)
First downs: T.R. Miller 16, West Blocton 14
Third down conversions: T.R. Miller 0-4, West Blocton 2-10
Fourth down conversions: T.R. Miller 1-2, West Blocton 1-2
Total yards: T.R. Miller 421 (325 rushing, 96 passing), West Blocton 288 (128 rushing, 160 passing)
Individual rushing: T.R. Miller- Puryear 13-153 4TD, Jones 8-109 2TD, J. Gomez 7-60, Cauley 1-4, Reeves 1-2, Martin 3-(-3); West Blocton- Motley 14-81, Creel 9-20, Bryan 1-16, Howard 13-9 2TD, Carroll 2-2
Individual passing: T.R. Miller- Cauley 7-13-96; West Blocton- Carroll 8-18-160 1TD 1INT
Individual receiving: T.R. Miller- Salter 3-54 1TD, Drakeford 2-20, Ty. Shehan 1-14, Lucas 1-8; West Blocton- Motley 3-58, Bryan 2-31 1TD, Howard 1-48, Williams 1-13, Richardson 1-10
Individual punting: T.R. Miller- Raines 2-29, 14.5 avg.; West Blocton- Carroll 5-146, 29.2 avg.
Penalties: T.R. Miller 2-16, West Blocton 0-0