TRM-Midfield: battle of unbeatens
By By BRUCE HIXON Sports Editor
Although the T.R. Miller Tigers have achieved their original goal of getting to Birmingham, they must now readjust that thinking a bit.
When the Tigers along with every other team in the state put their eyes on Birmingham, it was for a berth in the state championship game.
T.R. Miller gets an early trip to the Birmingham area Friday when it visits the Midfield Patriots at 7 p.m. in a Class 3A quarterfinal tilt.
The contest is not only between the state's top-ranked team (T.R. Miller) and the fourth-ranked team (Midfield), but both teams enter the contest undefeated.
The Tigers (11-0) mowed down West Blocton 48-19 in the opening round and Springville 42-28 last week in the second round to get to this point in the season. Meanwhile the Patriots (12-0) took care of Slocomb 34-20 in round one and Sumiton Christian 32-13 last week in round two. Both teams are region champions, T.R. Miller in Region 1 and Midfield in Region 3.
"Sooner or later, you're going to have to go on the road in the playoffs and win a tough game and we certainly have that test against Midfield. Midfield is quick like Pike County, but they have a lot more size to go with it," T.R. Miller coach Jamie Riggs said.
For the second week in a row, T.R. Miller faces a team it bounced from the playoffs a year ago. The Tigers ousted Midfield 49-12 in last year's first round.
In addition to record, the Patriots have a lot more things going for them this season. Midfield is averaging 36.3 points a game and has put up at least 30 points in a contest nine times. Unlike Springville a week ago which also had a potent offense, the Patriots' defense is much more stingy. Midfield has allowed an average of just 11.8 points a game. The Patriots have posted three shutouts and have held five opponents to a touchdown or less.
Midfield's offense is fueled by one of the state's top players, quarterback Sylvester Mencer (6-1, 192 lb. sr.). In fact, Mencer was recently tabbed as a finalist for Class 3A Back of the Year. So far this season Mencer has thrown for 1,425 yards and 22 touchdowns with just two interceptions.
Mencer has thrown for five touchdown passes so far in the postseason, which included four in the first-round win over Slocomb. Mencer is also a big threat on the ground, as his 105 yards rushing in that Slcoomb game will attest.
"Mencer is very deserving to be a finalist for Back of the Year. He was a good player last year when we faced him and he is even better this year. He has a great arm and he also has good speed. Right now he has a very hot hand this postseason," Riggs said.
Mencer has plenty of weapons
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to work with, most notably junior running back Michael Dawson and wide receiver/running back Cortez Pitts.
"Dawson is a good, strong runner at fullback. Pitts is a very elusive player with great speed and shifty moves. Sometimes they use Pitts at running back and sometimes he'll move to wide receiver. They try to get the ball in his hands a lot," Riggs said.
While the Patriots have some formidable weapons to throw at T.R. Miller, the Tigers can do the same after back-to-back playoff games of more than 400 yards worth of offense.
Last week it was quarterback Jordan Cauley who had the hot hand, as he completed 10 of 11 passes for 211 yards.
"We really did a great job with our passing game from our line, to Jordan to our receivers. Actually the one incompletion was a drop," Riggs said. "We mixed up our offense really well against Springville (196 rushing and 211 passing) and I'd like for us to do that this week. We also did a good job of rotating our running backs in and out and keeping them fresh and strong. In the end, it's not how you do it. We just have to find a way to score more than them."
If T.R. Miller wins, it will host the Oneonta (12-0)-Pike County (9-3) survivor next Friday in the semifinals.
NOTE: T.R. Miller fans who will be making the trip to Midfield should follow these directions.
Take Highway 31 North toward Evergreen and get on I-65 North at Fairview. Stay on I-65 North all the way through Birmingham. When you get downtown and you see the signs for I-20/59, get in the left lane. Exit I-65 North tothe left onto I-20/59 towards Tuscaloosa. Go about 4 miles. At Exit 118, exit to the right onto Valley Road. Go about one half mile on Valley Road then turn left on to Aronov. Go approximately two miles and turn right at High School Drive. Midfield High School is within one-half mile.