Tigers smash Hillcrest, wrap up region championship
Published 4:54 pm Monday, October 23, 2006
By BY RANDY WINTON – SPORTS WRITER
Perhaps Jamie Riggs' assessment of the game of football is as accurate as any ever stated.
The games are especially fun when they produce a region championship and a top seed in the upcoming playoffs. The Tigers accomplished both items Friday when they downed the Hillcrest Jaguars 33-6 at Evergreen.
The decisive margin of victory gave Class 4-A's top-ranked team a breather after two straight come-from-behind wins, at Thomasville and at home against Jackson.
While T.R. Miller stayed at one end of the spectrum, the season-long struggles continued for a very young and inexperienced Hillcrest team (0-8 overall, 0-6 in region play) that has been outscored 314-92 on the season.
It was a win that precedes a two-game run to the end of the regular season that includes this Friday's much-anticipated war with rival W.S. Neal, which earned a playoff spot with a 54-39 win over Jackson, and traditional state power Trinity, currently the 10th-ranked team in Class 4A.
Sparked by a defense hungry to make a statement after it allowed nearly 300 rushing yards a week ago against Jackson, the Tigers (8-0 overall and 6-0 in region play) held the Jaguars to a paltry 111 total yards on the ground. Forty of those rushing yards came on one play. Hillcrest got its other 61 yards through the air.
The one long rushing play the Jaguars got resulted in a touchdown on the last play of the third quarter, long after most of T.R. Miller ‘s starters had departed.
Before their departure, the likes of Becker Denton, Mabry Cook, Marlon Alvarado, Kendall Land and Terrence Walker made their collective presence known when the Jaguars had the ball. Denton, Cook and Alvarado snuffed the run with a total of 18 tackles. Land picked off a pair of passes and both he and Walker broke up five other passes.
The defense was balanced by a Tiger offense which, despite a slow start, was sparked by a 27-point second quarter and netted 220 rushing yards. Senior running back Justin Gomez, who led all rushers with 84 yards on 11 carries, contributed four touchdowns. It was the second straight week Gomez reached the endzone four times.
Once T.R. Miller got kick-started, there was no looking back.
The Tigers benefited from a muffed punt, which Seth Holland recovered in the opening moments of the second quarter. T.R. Miller quarterback Baxley Raines pitched to senior Tanner Shehan on an apparent sweep on the ensuing play, but Shehan stepped back and lofted a picture-perfect pass that found Brice Martin in stride on a post pattern for a 42-yard touchdown. Raines, who would leave the game with a bruised shoulder, made the first of three point after attempts to make it 7-0.
Indeed it did. While the Tigers had managed but five rushing yards to that point, they racked up 73 in the final nine minutes of the half and scored three more touchdowns and entered the halftime intermission with a 27-0 lead.
A seven-yard punt set up a one-play, 18-yard touchdown run by Gomez to make it 14-0. Gomez later culminated his team's longest drive of the game, seven plays for 65 yards, with a one-yard score. The drive was highlighted by a 45-yard middle screen from Raines to Gomez on a third-and-six play from the 50. That made it 21-0 with 4:50 to play in the half.
A 34-yard punt return and 25-yard run from scrimmage by Jamaal Middleton set up T.R. Miller's last touchdown of the half, a one-yard burst by Gomez.
Hillcrest's only touchdown of the night came immediately after a Tiger fumble.
Derrick Page answered one play later with a 40-yard run down the left sideline. The conversion run failed, but the gap was closed to 27-6.
Gomez put the final nail in the coffin on T.R. Miller's ensuing drive when he scored from 11 yards out.