Miller holds off Clarke County for home win

Published 4:47 am Monday, September 28, 2009

By By Randy Winton
sports writer

If there was any wonder how T.R. Miller’s football team might react in a close game, there isn’t any more.
Any question the Tiger defense might stick its nose in the fray without fear? Answered.
And, after two cake-walk wins in as many weeks, would there be any continuity to its offense? Absolutely.
When a statement about this edition of Jamie Riggs’ Tiger football team needed to be made, what better way to do so than with a win against one of its all-time toughest opponents? In a down-to-the-wire, staring eye-to-eye, standing toe-to-toe contest against Clarke County Friday night in Brewton, it was Riggs’ crew who made the biggest statement of the night by outlasting its foes in a 31-20 win that preserved its perfect season.
In doing so, the Tigers (5-0, 3-0) equally mixed hard-hitting, tenacious defense with a grueling offensive attack to finally put Clarke County away.
Don’t let T.R. Miller’s 27-3 advantage in this 30-year series fool you. It is smash-mouth football almost every single time these two meet. And it was more of the same Friday night.
And although the Tigers jumped out to a 17-0 lead midway through the second quarter and then a 24-7 lead two minutes into the second half, it finally took a fourth-down stop deep in Tiger territory in the fourth quarter to all but preserve the win.
Along the way, an offense that was led by the hard-nosed running of junior Anthony Herbert (25 carries, 193 yards, 1 TD) mixed nicely with a defense that never flinched when the visitors’ vaunted spread offense threatened.
While the defense was making its statement, the offense was jumping out to a lead it would never relinquish, thanks to an offensive line that helped Herbert and the Tigers control the ball and the clock. Counting Herbert’s nearly 200 yards of offense, his team totaled 276 yards on the ground and another 90 through the air as junior quarterback Wil Riggs completed 12-of-22 passes without an interception and a touchdown.
And they did so early and often.
On his team’s first possession of the game, Herbert ran for 47, 4 and 14 yards on consecutive carries as the Tigers took two minutes to run a six-play, 81-yard drive before scoring the game’s first touchdown. A 9-yard pass to Jaren Jackson came two plays before Riggs connected with Derrick Riley for the 8-yard TD. Wes Dickey booted the first of his four PATs to make it 7-0.
The Tiger defense went to work right away. After forcing two punts in Clarke County’s first two possessions, the third possession proved more devastating as hard-hitting linebacker Cody Swain popped the ball free from the Clarke County quarterback, then scooped up the loose ball and rambled 33 yards for the touchdown, making it 14-0.
Dickey tacked on a 27-yard field goal midway through the second quarter, and the Tigers were cruising with a 17-0 lead.
Clarke County cut the lead to 17-7 before the half, but a 64-yard kickoff return by Herbert to start the second half, followed by four straight 2-yard runs to the end zone once again gave the Tigers a big lead, 24-7.
But Clarke County refused to go away and scored back-to-back touchdowns within two minutes to make it a 24-20 game. It followed a fumble with a 23-yard touchdown run by quarterback Daniel Bedwell with a blocked punt that resulted in a 35-yard return by Jemarcus Williams.
The offensive line of T.R. Miller earned its stripes on the following all-important drive. With the tide seemingly turning in favor of their opponents, the Tigers put together a 10-play, four-minute drive that ended when Jackson scored from 11 yards out with 2:07 remaining in the third quarter to make it 31-20. Along the way, the Tigers had only one third-down situation (Riggs converted a third-and-inches with a QB sneak).
Clarke County had one last chance at pulling off the upset, and looked for all the world like it would have a chance when they got to the TRM 12-yard line after a masterful 11-play, 59-yard drive. Every play to that point was a running play and twice it converted third-down opportunities. But, then, on fourth and less than a yard from the 12, Bedwell attempted a pass up the seam that skirted off the fingertips of his tight end and effectively ended any hope of pulling off the upset.