Tigers outlast Escambia County
By By TIM COTTRELL
The T.R. Miller Tigers came into their season opener with Escambia County High School Friday with an 11-game winning streak in the rivalry.
When the clock reached zero a few hours later, the streak had reached 12 games, but the Tigers had their hands full getting there.
Led by 223 combined passing yards from Jordan Cauley and Baxley Raines and 139 combined rushing yards from Nick Puryear and Nykeem Barton, T.R. Miller notched a 28-20 victory at Brewton Municipal Stadium
The opening quarter of the game seemed to foretell a shoot-out, as both teams scored touchdowns in just over two minutes.
The Tigers took the opening kickoff and marched down the field, as they cut through the Blue Devil defense with a series of trap plays from Barton. Cauley capped off the drive with a 19-yard touchdown pass to Mikel Riggs just 1:51 into the game. Reo Kirkland added the extra point.
Not to be outdone, the Blue Devils then answered with an 80-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Calvin Hartley to wide receiver Chris Andrews just 13 seconds after the Tiger score. Elliott Faircloth added the extra point that tied the game at seven-all.
T.R. Miller answered with a sustained drive on the following possession and scored on a one-yard touchdown run from Puryear with 5:56 remaining in the opening quarter. Kirkland again added the PAT.
The Blue Devils seemed on their way to answering another T.R. Miller punch, but Rodrick Gaston fumbled and junior defensive back Terrance Walker pounced on the ball at the Tiger 22 to give T.R. Miller the ball back.
T.R. Miller would then double its lead with 7:03 remaining in the half, as Raines ran in from a yard out. Kirkland's PAT was once again true and extended the lead to 21-7.
The Blue Devils were once again able to answer, as they drove the length of the field and scored on a Hartley five-yard touchdown run. Faircloth's PAT was blocked.
The Tigers put together a nice drive prior to half, but it stalled at the Blue Devil 21 and a 38-yard field goal attempy by Kirkland was no good. The teams went to the locker rooms with T.R. Miller leading 21-13.
A golden opportunity for the Tigers to put the game out of reach was missed in the early moments of the third quarter. T.R. Miller recovered a fumble at the Blue Devil 39-yard line, but gave the ball right back a few plays later after another fumble.
The Tigers once again had the ball around midfield later in the quarter, but Cauley was picked off by Escambia County defensive back Parris Wiggins. The Blue Devils capitalized on this opportunity, as they drove 65 yards and scored on a one-yard run from Hartley. Faircloth's succssful brought Escambia County to within 21-20.
The Blue Devils seemed on the verge of taking the lead early in the fourth quarter, but a fake punt attempt that fooled no one set the Tigers up in excellent scoring position. A 37-yard drive was capped by a four-yard Puryear run. Kirkland was once again good on the extra point and pushed T.R. Miller's lead up to eight at 28-20.
The Blue Devils made one more threat, but turned the ball over on downs.
While the Tigers racked up 445 yards of total offense, the real story of the game was Hartley, who racked up 322 yards of total offense all by himself. T.R. Miller head coach Jamie Riggs said his performance had in a way affected the whole team.
The Tigers came into the game with a lot of question marks on the offensive line, but the 222 yards rushing on 39 carries may have silenced some of those doubts.
Riggs, who picked up his 199th career win Friday, was also very complimentary of the new staff at Escambia County.
T.R. Miller will open up Class 3A Region 1 action Friday when it hosts Straughn at 7 p.m. Straughn dropped its opener to Andalusia Thursday 35-13.
At T.R. Miller
Escambia Co. 7 6 7 0 – 20
T.R. Miller 14 7 0 7 – 28
T.R. MILLER- Riggs 19 yard pass from Cauley (Kirkland kick)
ESCAMBIA COUNTY- Andrews 80 yard pass from Hartley (Faircloth kick)
T.R. MILLER- Puryear 1 yard run (Kirkland kick)
T.R. MILLER- Raines 1 yard run (Kirkland kick)
ESCAMBIA COUNTY- Hartley 5 yard run (kick failed)
ESCAMBIA COUNTY- Hartley 1 yard run (Faircloth kick)
T.R. MILLER- Puryear 4 yard run (Kirkland kick)
First downs: T.R. Miller 22, Escambia County 16
Total yards: T.R. Miller 445 (222 rushing, 223 passing), Escambia County 390 (246 rushing, 144 passing)
Penalties: T.R. Miller 5-21, Escambia County 6-40