Tigers to find out if they're Ram tough
By By BRUCE HIXON – Sports Editor
In the T.R. Miller-W.S. Neal rivalry where every move each side makes is both a chess match and a grudge match, the Blue Eagles may have actually done their Murder Creek rival a favor in the Tigers' preparation for Friday's 7 p.m. Class 3A Region 1 road game against the Headland Rams.
It was the Blue Eagles who were caught napping three weeks ago when they went to Headland and got shocked by the usual struggling Rams program 21-20.
If W.S. Neal's stumble at Headland does not serve as a wakeup call for T.R. Miller, the Tigers' surprising 16-14 Homecoming loss to Slocomb Friday does.
The loss to Slocomb snapped T.R. Miller's 16-game regular season and 11-game region winning. It also knocked the Tigers (5-1 overall and 3-1 in region play) one game behind Pike County for the Region 1 lead with the Bulldogs set to come to Brewton next week.
Even though Headland (2-4 overall and 1-3 in region play) has lost 14 of its last 16 games and went winless a year ago, Riggs said the Rams are headed in the right direction.
One of Slocomb's keys to victory against T.R. Miller was ball control. The Red Tops held the ball for more than 30 minutes in that game, which included a 20-play, 11-minute drive in the first quarter. Riggs said Headland plays a similar style.
Running back Chavis Reeves (5-11, 190 lb. sr.) leads the Rams' ground attack with 434 yards on 61 carries, an average of 7.1 yards per attempt. Anthony Smith (6-2, 190 lb. sr.) is also a key figure in the backfield. Smith ran for 131 yards with a pair of scores in Headland's win against W.S. Neal.
Rams quarterback Justin Thomas (5-10, 175 lb. jr.) has completed 60 percent of his passes, but has attempted only 15 on the season with nine completions for 150 yards.
While the Tigers have won their two previous road trips this season to Dale County 42-13 and to Andalusia 28-14, T.R. Miller got off to tough starts in both games. The Tigers gave up a 92-yard kickoff return on the opening play at Dale County and then watched Andalusia eat up seven minutes in a 52-yard drive on the first possession of that game.
The Tigers got a combined four carries for minus six yards from their top two leading rushers, Briddell Jones and Nykeem Barton, in the loss to Slocomb. Barton suffered a separated shoulder the day before and did not play, while Jones got limited work.
Execution and taking advantage of opportunities are two other areas where T.R. Miller struggled against Slocomb. The Tigers had four turnovers and scored only once during a stretch where they began six straight possessions in Slocomb territory.