A new number one in town
Published 3:07 pm Monday, October 9, 2006
By BY BRUCE HIXON – sports editor
For a large part of the game, the T.R. Miller Tigers were asking “what if.” Thanks to a wild three-minute finish, the Thomasville Tigers will be asking “what if” a lot longer.
The visiting and second-ranked Tigers turned in one of the storied program's most memorable comebacks Friday when they stunned top-ranked Thomasville 28-23.
Down 23-14 with just over three minutes left, T.R. Miller got two touchdown passes from Baxley Raines with a successful onside kick recovery by Jamal Middleton in between.
The win will undoubtedly send T.R. Miller (6-0 overall and 4-0 in Class 4A Region 1) to the top of next week's state rankings. More importantly, it puts the victorious Tigers in sole possession of the region lead with three games left.
The victorious Tigers looked as if they might run away from Thomasville (5-1 overall and 3-1 in region play). T.R. Miller already had a 14-0 lead when Raines threw a 63-yard pass completion to Andrew Chavers. Chavers was caught from behind at the one-yard line where he was stripped of the ball. From there, the ball rolled out of the back of the endzone for a touchback. Instead of being up by three touchdowns, the lead was still just 14-0.
The miscue renewed life in the host Tigers, who saw T.R. Miller pick up a six-yard touchdown run by Travis Holland on the game's opening series and a three-yard touchdown run by Raines on its second possession.
The Thomasville offense, which managed just 12 yards on four plays on its opening series and lost a fumble recovered by Travis Holland on its second possession, got the spark it needed from quarterback Jake Overstreet.
Overstreet directed his team on a 10-play, 80-yard march after Chavers' fumble. The host Tigers converted a pair of third downs along the way before Overstreet connected on a 25-yard touchdown pass to Daril Jackson.
Instead of possibly being up 21-0, T.R. Miller's lead was down to 14-7 with 3:07 left in the half after Henrique Aguiar booted the extra point.
It got worse for T.R. Miller before the first half ended. The Tigers went three-and-out inside their own 30-yard line on the following series.
While Raines was able to help get T.R. Miller out of its poor field position, it did not stop Overstreet from hitting Jackson again, this time on a 60-yard touchdown pass down the right sideline with 1:04 left in the half.
T.R. Miller kept the last point of its original lead when Aguiar's PAT sailed wide left and left the visiting Tigers up 14-13.
While T.R. Miller maintained a slim lead headed into the second half, it had a tough time shaking off the huge momentum shift.
The visiting Tigers dodged one bullet on the opening series of the second half when Brice Martin picked off an Overstreet pass at the T.R. Miller two-yard line.
Martin's interception only temporarily stopped the Thomasville offense. Thomasville's defense kept the Tigers pinned inside the five-yard line and forced Raines to punt from the back of the endzone.
While Raines got off a decent 30-yard punt, a short return put Thomasville back in business again at the T.R. Miller 32-yard line.
Thomasville quickly got the ball inside the 10-yard line on a 15-yard run by Roya Campbell and a 12-yard gain by Delvonte Harris.
While T.R. Miller's defense kept Thomasville out of the endzone, it was unable to keep Aguiar from hitting a 23-yard field goal that put the host Tigers up 16-14 with 5:07 left in the third quarter.
As Thomasville continued to win the battle of field position, it was also able to add to its lead when it went 46 yards on just four plays. Overstreet began the possession with a 12-yard gain and ended it with a 10-yard touchdown run. Aguiar made it a two-possession lead when he kicked the PAT to make it 23-14 with 6:11 left in the game.
T.R. Miller, which had just one first down over the first 18 minutes of the second half, threatened to go three and out from inside its own 30-yard line after Overstreet's touchdown.
Raines changed that when he hit Brice Martin for a 12-yard gain on third and long for a first down.
That play renewed some spark in the Tigers' offense. Raines completed five of his next six passes, which included a 16-yard touchdown strike to Justin Gomez. Raines booted the PAT to narrow Thomasville's lead to 23-21 with three minutes left.
Even though T.R. Miller had a couple of timeouts left, it gambled on special teams with an onside kick. Raines bounced a ball that glanced off Thomasville's Kenny Sanders and Middleton was in the right place at the right time to make the recovery at the Thomasville 36-yard line with 2:55 left.
Two plays later Raines and the Tigers covered that distance when he hit Tanner Shehan on a slant pass across the middle. Shehan broke a tackle and went the rest of the way untouched for the touchdown. Raines, who threw for a career high 206 yards, finished a perfect night of kicking in the PAT department to make it 28-23.
If there was one fault to the Tigers comeback, it was they left plenty of time for the Thomasville offense to answer.
Thomasville put itself in a big hole when Delvonte Harris had Raines' kickoff glance off his hands and roll out of bounds at the five-yard line.
The host Tigers surprisingly showed no urgency, as they were content to run three
running plays that gained 13 yards, but still left Thomasville inside its own 20-yard line with just over a minute and a half left.
Thomasville finally decided to go to its air attack that had netted 143 previous yards, but Martin made Overstreet's pass his last when he came up with his second interception just past midfield.
Riggs said another key to his team's resurgence was the play of its offensive line.
T.R. Miller returns home this week to face the Jackson Aggies for Homecoming at 7 p.m. Jackson suffered a 43-28 loss to Escambia County Friday.