TRM, Springville know each other well
By By BRUCE HIXON Sports Editor
More than 200 miles separate Brewton and Springville, but that has not stopped their respective high school football teams from getting to know each other very well.
For the third straight year, the T.R. Miller Tigers and Springville Tigers will collide in the postseason. This time it will be a second-round matchup in the Class 3A state playoffs Friday at Brewton Municipal Stadium. Game time is 7 p.m.
T.R. Miller has won the last two encounters with Springville, 31-21 in 2002 and 53-25 a year ago.
This year probably marks the toughest Springville test for T.R. Miller. The opposing Tigers, who downed Holtville 48-33 in the opening round, have compiled a 10-1 overall record. Springville went 6-1 in Region 4 play where it suffered its lone loss, a 19-16 double overtime setback to Oneonta.
Springville has averaged 39.8 points a game and has scored 40 or more in a game five times.
That could set up quite a shootout since T.R. Miller, which crunched West Blocton 48-19 in Friday's opening round, has averaged 39.2 points a game en route to its 10-0 record.
"I don't think there is any doubt this is the best of their teams we have seen the last three years. They've got a pretty good group of core players who have been a part of those three teams," T.R. Miller coach Jamie Riggs said. "I think it's a big advantage when you've got that kind of experience, especially in the postseason. Their players have been through this before."
Springville's two best weapons should be familiar to T.R. Miller followers.
Quarterback Stephen Yance (6-2, 185 lb. sr.) has thrown for 900 yards on the season. However, Yance is also an effective runner. Yance had 71 yards rushing and scored two touchdowns in last week's win over Holtville.
"Yance runs the option really well. Then there will be times he will be in the shotgun. He has a strong arm and a good group of receivers. On the other hand, if you only guard against the pass, he'll take off and run," Riggs said.
Running back Jeremy Williamson (5-10, 165 lb. sr.) has run for a team high 804 yards and scored 13 touchdowns. Williamson has averaged 8.6 yards per attempt.
Williamson is also an effective kick returner. He had an 84-yard kickoff return for a touchdown last week after Holtville pulled within 28-25. T.R. Miller fans may recall Williamson had an 80-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in last year's playoff clash. Williamson scored two touchdowns overall in that game.
"Williamson has great speed. He is not just a threat in the backfield, but he can take it the distance on kick returns," Riggs said.
Fullback Patrick Hanrahan (6-2, 226 lb. sr) is also an effective weapon. Hanrahan, who is Springville's leading tackler and averages 36 yards a punt, has scored 11 touchdowns.
"He can beat you in a lot of ways," Riggs said.
While games that involve two high octane offenses do not always live up to their billing, Riggs said his team will have to have a big offensive night.
"I don't think you can expect to completely shut down a team of their ability although Oneonta was able to slow them down in their only loss. It's a similar situation to when we played Pike County last year. We're probably just going to have to outscore them," Riggs said.
T.R. Miller displayed plenty of of its own weapons against West Blocton, as it racked up 421 yards of total offense. Junior running backs Nick Puryear (153) and Briddell Jones (109) combined for 262 yards rushing and six touchdowns. In fact, Puryear took over the team lead in in individual rushing for the season with 484 yards.
"It's not a case of where the coaching staff didn't believe Nick would be in that position at this point of the season. It's just that since the middle of the season he has really improved and he has done that in both the fullback and tailback spots," Riggs said. "Nick, Briddell and Justin Gomez all had strong games running the ball for us Friday. We'll probably use a similar three-player rotation this week."
Friday's winner will advance to next week's quarterfinal round game against the Midfield (11-0)-Sumiton Christian (8-3) survivor. T.R. Miller would be on the road in either scenario.