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Tigers sting Yellow Jackets

By By BRUCE HIXON – Sports Editor
They put up the kind of yards the Aliceville defense had not allowed all season. They put up the kind of points the Aliceville defense had not allowed all season.
Oh, by the way, the most important thing the T.R. Miller Tigers did to the Yellow Jackets nobody else had done all season was beat them.
Actually, the word pummel would be a better description of the Tigers' surprisingly easy 48-18 win on the Aliceville home turf in Friday's second round of the Class 3A playoffs.
The Tigers' 437 yards of offense and 48 points were by far the most the Yellow Jackets, who were ranked third in the state in Class 3A, had allowed this season. In fact, Aliceville (11-1) had allowed just 69 points for the entire season prior to T.R. Miller's arrival.
Led by Nykeem Barton's 127 yards on 13 carries with two touchdowns and Briddell Jones' 94 yards on 14 attempts with two more touchdowns, T.R. Miller racked up 350 yards rushing against the previously undefeated Yellow Jackets.
Much like the first-round win over Holtville where T.R. Miller's defense came up with five take-aways, turnovers were a key part of Friday's game. The Tigers recovered two fumbles and picked off a pass. They also came up with the equivalent of another turnover when they recovered an onside kick.
Without a doubt the most bizarre and possibly the biggest play of the game was a 40-yard fumble recovery return for a touchdown by Laine Lucas when T.R. Miller had just a 14-12 lead.
Aliceville's Terrance Craig settled in to catch Baxley Raines' punt, but did not wave a fair catch signal. As Craig stood motionless, Lucas took the ball out of Craig's arms uncontested and raced into the endzone.
The T.R. Miller defense also came up with a key turnover on the opening series of the game. Aliceville took the opening kickoff and moved the ball from its own 26 to the Tigers' 45 when Justin Marshall recovered a fumble in the Aliceville backfield and returned it to the Yellow Jackets' 34.
One play later Barton began his big game with a 34-yard touchdown run. Raines' PAT made it 7-0 with 9:34 left in the first quarter.
Aliceville, which amassed 200 yards worth of offense in the first half, all of which came on the ground, responded with an 11-play, 74-yard drive that ended with Derrick Cousette's one-yard run. Actually the biggest play of that drive came when offensive lineman Jeremy Robinson recovered a loose ball on the fourth play of the series that kept the possession alive.
Special teams mistakes would be a problem for Aliceville the entire game and they began when Jhrron Spencer's point after attempt was wide left. That miss kept T.R. Miller on top 7-6 with 4:17 left in the first quarter.
The Tigers had a 68-yard touchdown pass from Jordan Cauley to a wide open Mikel Riggs negated by an ineligible receiver on the ensuing series, but overcame that when a 58-yard run by Justin Gomez helped set up a four-yard touchdown run by Jones. Raines booted the PAT and extended the advantage to 14-6 with 24 seconds left in the quarter.
Aliceville responded with another effective drive that covered 82 yards over 11 plays and ended with a six-yard touchdown run by Fadeldrick Hughes. The Yellow Jackets surprisingly passed up an opportunity to go for the tie with a two-point conversion attempt. Instead Spencer missed his second PAT kick and kept T.R. Miller's advantage at 14-12 with 7:25 left in the first half.
Lucas' fumble recovery return for a touchdown off a punt three minutes later did more than give the Tigers a two-possession lead. The still shocked Yellow Jackets were caught napping when T.R. Miller recovered an onside kick attempt at the Aliceville 38.
With the ball back in the hands of their offense, the Tigers covered those 38 yards over seven plays. The last of those plays was a one-yard touchdown plunge by Nick Puryear. Raines, who hit his other six conversion attempts on the night, missed this one and kept the T.R. Miller lead at 27-12 with 1:20 left in the first half.
The Tigers threw another dagger into the heart of the Yellow Jackets when they began the second half with a 14-play, 79-yard march that lasted nearly eight minutes.
T.R. Miller caught a big break early in the series when a roughing the passer penalty gave the Tigers a first down on what would have been a fourth down and 16 situation. The penalty eventually set up a seven-yard touchdown run by Jones. Raines got back on track with the conversion game, as he split the uprights to make it 34-12 with 4:21 left in the quarter.
That would be the first of three scores in a 52-second span. Craig tried to make up for his earlier special teams mistake when he returned the kickoff 89 yards for a touchdown. Once again the Yellow Jackets missed the conversion, this time on a run attempt by Cousette, which left T.R. Miller's lead at 34-18.
Craig's score hardly phased the Tigers, as they answered in just two plays. Cauley hooked up with Brice Martin for a 42-yard gain prior to a 27-yard touchdown run by Barton. Raines' kick took the lead up to 41-18 with 3:29 left in the third period.
T.R. Miller had another quick strike before the third quarter closed when it went 49 yards in three plays. Jones had a 24-yard run and Barton picked up four more to set up a 21-yard touchdown strike from Cauley to Riggs. Raines closed out the game's scoring with the conversion kick to make it 48-18 with seven seconds left in the third quarter.
The Tigers will return home this Friday for the quarterfinal round where they will face Oneonta at 7 p.m. The top-ranked, undefeated and defending state champion Redskins advanced with a 28-14 win over Montgomery Academy. Oneonta ousted T.R. Miller from last year's playoffs with a 21-14 win in the semifinals.
The winner of the T.R. Miller-Oneonta game will face the Pike County-Springville game the following week in the semifinals.
At Aliceville
T.R. Miller 14 13 21 0 – 48
Aliceville 6 6 6 0 – 18
T.R. MILLER- Barton 34 yard run (Raines kick)
ALICEVILLE- Cousette 1 yard run (kick failed)
T.R. MILLER- Jones 4 yard run (Raines kick)
ALICEVILLE- Hughes 6 yard run (kick failed)
T.R. MILLER- Lucas 40 yard fumble recovery return (Raines kick)
T.R. MILLER- Puryear 1 yard run (kick failed)
T.R. MILLER- Jones 7 yard run (Raines kick)
ALICEVILLE- Craig 89 yard kickoff return (run failed)
T.R. MILLER- Barton 27 yard run (Raines kick)
T.R. MILLER- Riggs 21 yard pass from Cauley (Raines kick)
Stats
First downs: T.R. Miller 24, Aliceville 19
Third down conversions: T.R. Miller 7-10, Aliceville 3-9
Fourth down conversions: T.R. Miller 0-1, Aliceville 2-5
Total yards: T.R. Miller 437
350 rushing, 87 passing), Aliceville 278 (236 rushing, 42 passing)
Individual rushing: T.R. Miller- Barton 13-127 2TD, Jones 14-94 2TD, J. Gomez 3-66, Puryear 6-29 1TD, T. Holland 3-17, Taylor 2-8, S. Holland 2-6, Matthews 2-3; Aliceville- Cousette 14-90 1TD, Garner 10-72, Hughes 8-62 1TD, Owens 3-8, Craig 1-4
Individual passing: T.R. Miller- Cauley 5-6-87 1TD; Aliceville- Garner 1-11-38, Owens 2-8-4 1INT
Individual receiving: T.R. Miller- Martin 3-66, Riggs 1-21 1TD, Barton 1-0; Aliceville- Taggart 3-42
Individual punting: T.R. Miller- Raines 2-72, 36.0 avg.; Aliceville- McKinstry 1-34
Penalties: T.R. Miller- 6-55, Aliceville 3-25