A shortcoming on Homecoming at TRM
Published 7:52 pm Monday, October 3, 2005
By By BRUCE HIXON – Sports Editor
Even if Wesley Aplin's name drifts from the memory of T.R. Miller Tigers followers, the end result of his accomplishment will be remembered for years to come.
The Slocomb kicker booted three field goals, which included the game-winner from 28 yards out with 45 seconds left, to lift the Red Tops to a stunning 16-14 victory over the Tigers on Homecoming Night at Brewton Municipal Stadium Friday.
The loss snapped T.R. Miller's 16-game regular season winning streak and an 11-game winning streak in region play. Both streaks began after a 27-21 loss to Pike County back in week eight of the 2003 season.
One key in the Red Tops' win was their defense, which limited T.R. Miller to a season low 169 yards. Yet the biggest key to the Slocomb defense may have been its offense, which played keep away with the ball most of the game. The Red Tops (3-3 overall and 2-2 in Class 3A Region 1) had the ball for 30:19 as compared to just 17:41 for the Tigers.
Missed opportunities by T.R. Miller (5-1 overall and 3-1 in region) were another key component of the game. The Tigers had a stretch where they began six straight possessions in Slocomb territory and managed just one score. On the flip side, Slocomb never started a possession in T.R. Miller territory until the last play of the game when it took a knee to run out the clock.
Slocomb's dominance in ball control was never more evident than in the opening frame where the Red Tops nearly melted the entire quarter off the clock.
Slocomb took the opening kickoff and began a 20-play, 76-yard drive that used up all but 1:10 of the quarter. Seventeen of those plays were on the ground.
While the T.R. Miller defense finally stiffened at its own-four line, it set up a 21-yard field goal by Aplin that put the Red Tops up 3-0.
After it held on to the ball for a mere three plays and 31 seconds after the lengthy Slocomb drive, the Tigers' offense came through on its second series.
T.R. Miller overcame a holding penalty on the first play of the drive to go 62 yards in four plays. Runs of 14 and nine yards by Justin Gomez with a 14-yard gain by Nick Puryear squeezed in between set up a 34-yard touchdown run by wide receiver Mikel Riggs. Riggs caught the Red Tops' defense by surprise when he raced down the left sideline on a reverse for the touchdown.
Despite having been dominated by yardage and time of possession, the Tigers had a 7-3 lead when Baxley Raines made the point after kick with 9:27 left in the first half.
While Slocomb generally relied on grinding things out most of the game, it did have some big offensive plays on the ensuing series when the Red Tops went 88 yards in just three plays.
Quarterback Justin Myles had a 19-yard run and the play got 15 more yards when T.R. Miller was called for a personal foul penalty. Bret Singletary followed
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with a 21-yard gain to set up a 33-yard touchdown run down the right sideline by Jermaine Williams and put Slocomb back on top. The Red Tops' advantage grew to 10-7 with Aplin's' PAT kick with 8:41 left in the half.
Slocomb was able to string together another lengthy drive just before halftime when it went 59 yards in 11 plays over a four-minute span. Much like the first drive where the T.R. Miller defense stiffened in red zone territory, the Red Tops were forced to settle for a 28-yard field goal by Aplin with five seconds left that extended Slocomb's lead to 13-7.
In need of a spark, T.R. Miller got one on the second half kickoff when Antonio Gomez returned it 75 yards to the Slocomb 15.
It looked as if the Tigers might let that golden scoring chance slip away. They were faced with a fourth down and a long two from just inside the Slocomb eight-yard line when Justin Gomez came through with a three-yard gain and a first down. One play later Gomez came through again when he scored on a five-yard touchdown run to the left side to tie the score. Raines then gave T.R. Miller a 14-13 lead when he booted the PAT with 9:30 left in the third quarter.
The Tigers missed a chance to extend that lead on its following offensive series when it drove to the Slocomb six-yard line and lost the ball on a fumble, one of four turnovers T.R. Miller had in the game.
The Red Tops immediately gave the ball right back when Singletary fumbled and T.R. Miller's Terrance Walker recovered at the Red Tops' 28. Once again T.R. Miller failed to capitalize on the good field position, as it was stopped on downs at the Slocomb 19.
The list of missed opportunities bit T.R. Miller again early in the fourth quarter when quarterback Jordan Cauley was intercepted at the Slocomb one-yard line.
The Tigers' defense did their part when they held the Red Tops to just two yards and forced punter Reese Register to kick from the back of the endzone without the normal 15-yard cushion.
Register could only get off a short punt and T.R. Miller took over at the Slocomb 20. Just like the preceding drives, the Tigers came away empty when Raines missed a 33-yard field goal attempt with 5:08 left and kept T.R. Miller's lead at a mere point.
The missed opportunities by the Tigers opened the door for Slocomb's game-winning drive, which began at the Red Tops' 20 and ended at the T.R. Miller 11.
Along the way Slocomb was faced with a fourth and two at its own 43 when Myles completed an off balance pass to Williams that resulted in a 39-yard gain to the T.R. Miller 18. Four plays later and seven yards closer, Aplin split the uprights with a 28-yard field goal with 45 seconds left to put Slocomb up 16-14.
In need of just a field goal and with a timeout to work with, T.R. Miller still had a chance. First, Antonio Gomez ran the kickoff back 34 yards to the T.R. Miller 49.
Any hope of pulling out a dramatic victory quickly ended, as Cauley was picked off by Williams one play later.
The Tigers will try to bounce back this Friday when they travel to Headland for a 7 p.m. region game. The Rams fell to 2-4 overall and 1-3 in region play Friday when they lost to Straughn 30-8.
At T.R. Miller
Slocomb 3 10 0 3 – 16
T.R. Miller 0 7 7 0 – 14
SLOCOMB- Aplin 21 yard field goal
T.R. MILLER- Riggs 34 yard run (Raines kick)
SLOCOMB- Williams 33 yard run (Aplin kick)
SLOCOMB- Aplin 28 yard field goal
T.R. MILLER- J. Gomez 5 yard run (Raines kick)
SLOCOMB- Aplin 28 yard field goal
First downs: T.R. Miller 12, Slocomb 15
Third down conversions: T.R. Miller 2-9, Slocomb 5-15
Fourth down conversions: T.R. Miller 2-4, Slocomb 3-3
Total yards: T.R. Miller 169 (89 rushing, 83 passing), Slocomb 282 (222 rushing, 60 passing)
Individual rushing: T.R. Miller- J. Gomez 8-42 1TD, Riggs 1-34 1TD, Puryear 8-24, Raines 2-2, Jones 4-(-6), A. Gomez 1-(-7); Slocomb- Singletary 23-108, Williams 15-71 1TD, Myles 11-43, Mitchell 1-3, Ledford 1-(-3)
Individual passing: T.R. Miller- Cauley 9-17-83 2INT, A. Gomez 0-1-0; Slocomb- Myles 3-8-60
Individual receiving: T.R. Miller- Martin 3-13, Jones 2-18, Lucas 1-22, Riggs 1-17, McCreary 1-10, A. Gomez 1-3; Slocomb- Williams 1-39, Register 1-13, Singletary 1-8
Individual punting: T.R. Miller- Raines 1-40, 40.0 avg.; Slocomb- Register 4-104, 26.0 avg.
Penalties: T.R. Miller 5-40, Slocomb- 4-20