Tigers win battle but lose war
By By BRUCE HIXON – Sports Editor
They won some battles, but in the end the T.R. Miller Tigers lost the war and Friday's 10-7 decision to the Pike County Bulldogs at Brewton Municipal Stadium.
T.R. Miller came up on the short end of the score despite the fact it held Pike County to 42 points below its season average and its offense became just the third team overall and first in six weeks to dent the Bulldogs' defense on the scoreboard.
"It was another great game between us, but this one was not like the offensive shoot-outs we've had with them in recent years. This one was a hard-knocking, defensive struggle," T.R. Miller coach Jamie Riggs said.
Pike County's victory clinched at least a top two seed out of Class 3A Region 1 and a first-round home playoff game. The second-ranked Bulldogs (8-0 overall and 6-0 in region play) lead Straughn by one game headed into this week's final week of region play. Those teams hook up Friday at Pike County.
Meanwhile the loss suddenly has T.R. Miller (6-2 overall and 4-2 in region play) fighting for its playoff life. The Tigers can qualify with a victory at W.S. Neal this Friday in the annual Battle of Murder Creek or if Slocomb loses to winless Dale County. On the flip side, T.R. Miller can get knocked from the postseason field if it loses to W.S. Neal and Slocomb wins.
"I'm not worried about the playoff thing right now, but the Neal game is the biggest game of the season for us because it's Neal," Riggs said.
T.R. Miller held the Bulldogs, who entered Friday averaging 52 points a game, to just 185 yards of offense and stopped Pike County a staggering 13 times in 14 tries on third down. Yet the Bulldogs were even better, as they held the Tigers to a season low 138 yards of offense and just 29 on the ground.
Four turnovers and a key missed opportunity deep in Pike County turnover offset T.R. Miller's fine defensive showing.
"Our defense played about as well as they possibly could, but we turned the ball over too many times," Riggs said.
T.R. Miller played most of the game without starting quarterback Jordan Cauley. Cauley was knocked out of the game with an injury in the final minute of the first quarter on a roughing the passer penalty. Junior quarterback Baxley Raines got off to a slow start in his absence, as he completed just two of his first 10 passes for three yards with two interceptions. Raines, who was also briefly forced to the sideline with an injury, then got hot and completed his last four passes for 106 yards.
"We didn't change our schemes much when Baxley went in. He's had a lot of reps in practice and in some of our games. I thought he did a good job in a tough situation," Riggs said.
For the most part, the Tigers held the Pike County big play machine in check. A couple of exceptions came late in the first quarter. First, Darrell Reynolds returned a punt for what originally appeared to be a 90-yard punt return for a touchdown. That score was wiped out with an illegal block penalty.
One play later James Jackson broke loose for a 64-yard run that took the ball all the way to the T.R. Miller nine. While the Tigers' defense held firm and actually moved the Bulldogs back five yards, Pike County was still able to get a 31-yard field goal from Jarmon Barrow to take a 3-0 lead with 53 seconds left in the opening quarter.
The Tigers were able to stay within that margin the rest of the first half despite the fact they had just 29 yards worth of offense and only two non-penalty first downs.
While T.R. Miller was able to dodge one bullet in the third quarter, it got hit the second time around.
Justin Gomez thwarted one Pike County threat when he recovered a Bulldogs fumble in
See TIGERS Page 2B
their backfield at the T.R. Miller 31.
After a quick defensive stop, Pike County was back in business when James Jackson returned a punt 32 yards to the T.R. Miller 26. This time the Tigers were unable to keep the Bulldogs out of the endzone, as five plays later Barrow scored on a 12-yard run. Barrow also added the point after kick that extended Pike County's lead to 10-0 with 2:29 left in the third quarter.
Special teams tried to give the struggling T.R. Miller offense the break it needed. Early in the fourth quarter Brice Martin and Travis Holland teamed up to block Pike County punter Trent Bennett's kick and the Tigers took over at the Pike County 11.
On the very next play, Pike County's Trent Bennett recovered a missed pitch attempt from Raines to Briddell Jones.
The Tigers' offense was able to convert after a quick defensive stop. Raines had a 14-yard completion to Mikel Riggs and then Raines hit Antonio Gomez for a 26-yard pickup that took the ball inside the Pike County one-yard line.
While it eventually took the Tigers all the way to fourth down to get that one yard, they finally got it on a run by Jones with 1:37 left. Raines booted the PAT kick that trimmed the Bulldogs' lead to 10-7.
T.R. Miller's last chance faded when Pike County recovered Raines' onside kick attempt.
At T.R. Miller
Pike County 3 0 7 0 – 10
T.R. Miller 0 0 0 7 – 7
PIKE COUNTY- Barrow 31 yard field goal
PIKE COUNTY- Barrow 12 yard run (Barrow kick)
T.R. MILLER- Jones 1 yard run (Raines kick)
First downs: T.R. Miller 8, Pike County 8
Third down conversions: T.R. Miller 1-10, Pike County 1-14
Fourth down conversions: T.R. Miller 1-2, Pike County 0-1
Total yards: T.R. Miller 138 (29 rushing, 109 passing), Pike County 185 (177 rushing, 8 passing)
Individual rushing: T.R. Miller- Jones 12-29 1TD, Barton 4-11, Puryear 2-0, J. Gomez 1-0, Raines 6-(-11); Pike County- Jackson 15-126, Barrow 7-24, Foster 9-17, Reynolds 4-10
Individual passing: T.R. Miller- Raines 6-14-109 2INT, Cauley 0-5-0, A. Gomez 0-1-0 1INT; Pike County- Foster 1-14-8 2INT
Individual receiving: T.R. Miller- Riggs 2-40, Martin 1-40, A. Gomez 1-26, McCreary 1-5, Jones 1-(-2); Pike County- Issac 1-8
Individual punting: T.R. Miller- Raines 8-299, 37.4 avg.; Pike County- Bennett 7-216, 30.9 avg.
Penalties: T.R. Miller 5-31, Pike County 11-100