Tigers took another great ride in 2005

Published 2:27 am Wednesday, November 30, 2005

By By BRUCE HIXON – Sports Editor
With the curtain down on T.R. Miller's 2005 season, 60 of the state's 64 Class 3A teams would be glad to trade spots with the Tigers state semifinalist finish and an 11-3 overall record.
Of course, teams that fall short after they head into the season ranked number one in the state in the preseason polls with aspirations of winning it all will have a period of disappointment before satisfaction with a highly successful season is realized.
Along the way the Tigers beat arch rival W.S. Neal for an 11th straight time, knocked off previously unbeaten Aliceville and defending state champ Oneonta in the playoffs and reached the semifinal round for the sixth straight year.
Most of the preseason hype that centered around T.R. Miller prior to the season was the experience the Tigers returned on offense, especially at the skill spots.
For the most part, the Tigers did not disappoint in that area, as they averaged 32.4 points a game. T.R. Miller especially kicked it into high gear down the stretch, as it averaged 36.8 points a game over its last six games (the last two regular season games against W.S. Neal and Jay and playoff games against Holtville, Aliceville, Oneonta and Pike County).
The Tigers relied on balance with their offense. Although Briddell Jones led the running game with 745 yards and 10 touchdowns, Nykeem Barton (629 yards and nine TDs), Nick Puryear (417 yards and seven TDs) and Justin Gomez (413 yards and 11 TDS) all took their turns leading the ground game.
The same balance was true with the air game, as Jordan Cauley distributed his 1,492 passing yards to 12 different receivers.
Mikel Riggs emerged as the receiving leader in receptions (26), yards (445) and touchdowns (four), but Brice Martin, Antonio Gomez and Laine Lucas all finished in double digits in receptions.
While the T.R. Miller defense gave up an average of just under 300 yards a game, it became a formidable unit down the stretch with 14 takeaways during the four playoff games.
Special teams had some mixed results over the course of the season. The Tigers gave up kickoff returns for touchdowns against Dale County and Aliceville, but T.R. Miller usually got deep kickoffs and punts from Baxley Raines. Raines was also consistent with PAT kicks.
With 15 seniors set to depart, the Tigers have some big shoes to fill for next year.
The Tigers will also get ready to move to Class 4A against a vastly different schedule with region games against Thomasville, Jackson, Monroe County, Hillcrest-Evergreen, W.S. Neal, Southside-Selma and Escambia County.
Riggs said the Tigers have verbal non-region schedule commitments with Clarke County in week one and Straughn in week five, but neither deal is official. Jay (Fla.) is expected to depart from the schedule in week 10.

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