Tigers shake off stubborn Abbeville
By By BRUCE HIXON – Sports Editor
They had plenty of offensive heroes to share the glory. Nykeem Barton and Justin Gomez both rushed for two touchdowns. Briddell Jones rushed for 105 yards. Jordan Cauley threw for 163 yards and completed his last nine passes.
Yet it was the defensive play of Wade McCall that may be the ultimate reason why the T.R. Miller Tigers are still undefeated.
McCall had two first quarter fumble recoveries that killed Abbeville scoring threats deep in T.R. Miller territory. Those turnovers helped spark the Tigers to a 35-14 victory over the stubborn Yellow Jackets Friday at Brewton Municipal Stadium in a Class 3A Region1 clash.
McCall's first recovery came on the opening series of the game after Abbeville drove 59 yards over seven plays on the arm of quarterback D.J. Wiggins, who would be a thorn in the Tigers' side the entire game.
The Yellow Jackets (2-2 overall and 1-2 in region play) had the ball at the T.R. Miller 11 when McCall pounced on the ball when a high snap sailed over Wiggins' head. McCall then rumbled 52 yards after the recovery before he was finally brought down at the Abbeville 29.
It took the Tigers (4-0 overall and 3-0 in region play) just four plays to cash in on the turnover, as Justin Gomez rushed across the goal line from two yards out. Baxley Raines' point after kick extended the lead to 7-0 with 6:07 left in the opening frame.
Abbeville's second series ended much like its first did. The Yellow Jackets drove from their own 26 to the T.R. Miller 43.
Wiggins, who completed 17 of 32 passes for 234 yards, then completed a 16-yard gain to Rick Combs. As Combs fought to pick up extra yardage, the ball popped out and McCall was in the right place at the right time to make his second recovery of the quarter.
Despite McCall's second fumble recovery, the Tigers were still in a sticky situation. After a three-and-out offensive series, Raines had the ball sail over his head on the punt attempt. As the ball rolled towards the goal line, Raines kicked the ball out of the back of the endzone for a safety. That scenario trimmed T.R. Miller's lead to 7-2 with 2:57 left in the first quarter.
After a defensive stop on the ensuing series, the Tigers' offense was able to open up some breathing room.
Jones, who had his 105 yards rushing on just six attempts, had runs of 20 and 45 yards to set up a seven-yard touchdown run by Justin Gomez on the first play of the second quarter. Raines' kick made it 14-2.
Just when it looked as if T.R. Miller looked as if it might shake off its pesky foe, Wiggins rallied the Yellow Jackets with an impressive 13-play, 80-yard march. Wiggins accounted for 65 of those yards with 55 of those yards coming through the air. The biggest play of the series though was a pass interference call against the Tigers on a third-and-20 from the T.R. Miller 26.
Abbeville cashed in two plays after the penalty when Wiggins teamed up with Antwon Knight for an 11-yard touchdown strike. Although Cody Tillis' PAT kick failed, Abbeville had pulled within 14-8 with 8:07 left in the first half.
While McCall had two huge fumble recoveries in key situations for the Tigers, Abbeville also got a big one just before halftime.
T.R. Miller drove from its own 21 to the Abbeville two-yard line thanks largely to pass completions of 21 yards from Jordan Cauley to Brice Martin, 11 yards from Cauley to Justin Gomez and nine yards from Cauley to Gomez again.
Raines, who briefly replaced Cauley after he jammed his
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shoulder on a fumble recovery, also had a key completion when he hooked up with Mikel Riggs for a 15-yard gain that took the ball to the two-yard line.
All those plays were negated when the Tigers lost the ball at the one-yard line and Abbeville's Marcus Cotton recovered to keep T.R. Miller's lead a six-point margin.
The Tigers bounced back on the opening series of the second half although disaster nearly hit them on the kickoff when the ball took a high bounce off the hands of Antonio Gomez. Gomez was able to recover the ball a split second before the Abbeville coverage team arrived.
Once it survived that scare, T.R. Miller went 73 yards over 11 plays. Ten of those plays were rushing plays, which included a four-yard run by Barton for the score. Raines' kick made it 21-8 with 6:30 left in the frame.
Once again Wiggins would not let Abbeville surrender without a struggle. The Yellow Jackets quarterback had completions of 13, 17 and 21 yards before he hooked up with Knight again for a 32-yard touchdown strike. A missed conversion kick kept the now reduced T.R. Miller lead at 21-14 with 3:37 left in the quarter.
Not to be outdone by his counterpart, Cauley also proved to be dangerous through the air on the ensuing series. After completions of 11 and eight yards to Justin Gomez, he hit Brice Martin in full stride on his way to a 43-yard touchdown reception. Raines' fourth PAT kick doubled the advantage to 28-14 with 1:49 left in the third quarter.
Up until then Wiggins had been pretty much free to do what he wanted in the backfield, but the T.R. Miller defense started to get to him on the next series when Julius Harris had back-to-back sacks that quickly put an end to any Abbeville threat.
The Tigers were finally able to deliver the knockout blow early in the fourth quarter. Cauley had a 34-yard strike to Laine Lucas to set up a nine-yard touchdown run by Barton. Raines' PAT made it 35-14 with 10:10 left.
Riggs said Wiggins may have been even more dangerous than Escambia County quarterback Calvin Hartley, who threw for 144 yards and rushed for 178 more in week one.
T.R. Miller will step out of region play this Friday when it travels to Andalusia for a 7 p.m. game. The Bulldogs (2-1) suffered their first defeat Friday when they were ripped by UMS-Wright 51-10.
At T.R. Miller
Abbeville 2 6 6 0 – 14
T.R. Miller 7 7 14 7 – 35
T.R. MILLER- J. Gomez 2 yard run (Raines kick)
ABBEVILLE- safety (ball kicked out of endzone)
T.R. MILLER- J. Gomez 7 yard run (Raines kick)
ABBEVILLE- Knight 11 yard pass from Wiggins (kick failed)
T.R. MILLER- Barton 4 yard run (Raines kick)
ABBEVILLE- Knight 32 yard pass from Wiggins (kick failed)
T.R. MILLER- Martin 43 yard pass from Cauley (Raines kick)
T.R. MILLER- Barton 9 yard run (Raines kick)
First downs: T.R. Miller 21, Abbeville 20
Third down conversions: T.R. Miller 2-5, Abbeville 2-6
Fourth down conversions: T.R. Miller 1-1, Abbeville 0-1
Total yards: T.R. Miller 376 (198 rushing, 178 passing), Abbeville 342 (108 rushing, 234 passing)
Individual rushing: T.R. Miller- Jones 6-105, J. Gomez 8-39 2TD, Barton 7-39 2TD, Puryear 8-39, S. Holland 2-7, T. Holland 2-5, Matthews 1-(-4), Cauley 2-(-6), Raines 3-(-26); Abbeville- Wiggins 16-57, Cotten 10-51
Individual passing: T.R. Miller- Cauley 9-12-163 1TD, Raines 1-1-15; Abbeville- Wiggins 17-32-234 2TD
Individual receiving: T.R. Miller- J. Gomez 5-64, Martin 2-64 1TD, Riggs 2-16, Lucas 1-34; Abbeville- Combs 5-74, Knight 4-73 2TD, Feggins 3-43, Sipp 2-33, Laster 1-9, Owens 1-2, Cotten 1-0
Individual punting: T.R. Miller- Raines 1-46, 46.0 avg.; Abbeville- Wiggins 3-103, 34.3 avg.
Penalties: T.R. Miller- 5-63, Abbeville- 9-55