Tigers fall to Bayside Academy
By Randy Winton
Special to the Standard
The good news? T.R. Miller’s football team is just … this … close to being undefeated in this young football season.
The bad news? Not being able to make just a few big plays over the past two Friday nights — including last night’s 27-20 loss at Bayside, has put the Tigers in an 0-2 hole for the first time since 1989 — Coach Jamie Riggs’ first year at the helm, when they started out 0-3.
In dropping their first two games of the young season, the Tigers have played hard only to stumble in their efforts by not making stops at key times. Case in point, in losing to region foe Bayside Friday, the Admirals booked four scoring drives, and two of those were accomplished without having to face a third-down situation. In their other two drives they converted all three third-down possibilities
So, in reality, T.R. Miller (0-2, 0-1) is about five defensive plays over two weeks from possibly being unbeaten right now. And when you’re looking for encouragement after an 0-2 start, that’s a good launching point.
“We played hard,” said Riggs following the heart-breaker. “The effort was there, we’ve just made too many mistakes at key times. We just can’t seem to get that one defensive stop and that has really hurt us when the game is on the line.
“We’ve played two games right down to the wire and came up short on both of them,” Riggs continued. “We could easily be 2-0 right now … we need something to make us feel better. If we can find a way to win next week, maybe we can get back on track.”
Unlike last week, when the Tigers scored the first time they touched the ball, it took four possessions and nearly the entire first half before they finally scored last night. And that came with two seconds remaining in the half on a vintage effort by Anthony Herbert, who bulled 20 yards to paydirt to knot the score at 6-6. It was the first of three touchdowns for Herbert (he also scored on runs of 13 and 1 yard) on the night, and gave him seven for the year already
Herbert ended the night with 105 yards on 17 tough carries to lead all rushers.
“We really didn’t do anything in the first half offensively,” said Riggs. “But I’m taking the blame for that. I did a poor job of calling plays. We should have thrown it more (5-for-9, 56 yards in the first half) to try and loosen them up.”
They certainly did it in the second half, as Tiger quarterback Wil Riggs — playing with a broken left thumb — went 8-for-21 in the second half for 86 yards to help open up the run game. As it turned out, the Tigers certainly did enough offensively in the second half to win
As the teams battled back-and-forth, and Bayside (2-0, 1-0) held a 13-12 advantage – , the Admirals upped the advantage to 20-12 when freshman quarterback Hunter Slater found sophomore Geoffrey Steinbaugh on a 46-yard post pattern that culminated a six-play, 73-yard drive.
Both teams traded punts and, with 5:09 remaining, Riggs engineered yet another late-game drive that would tie the game. Herbert ran for four yards and Riggs hit Dakota Schultz for 28 more yards before Herbert ran for 28 and 6, then finished off the drive with a one-yard plunge to close the gap to 20-18. Needing a two-point conversion, Dylan Bell plucked Riggs’ pass out of the hands of the Bayside defender to complete the comeback at 20-all.
In scoring so quickly, the Tigers left just over three minutes on the clock; plenty of time for Bayside’s quick-strike offense.
Following the ensuing kickoff, the Admirals required just five plays – thanks to a 29-yard pass, a 17-yard run and a 15-yard facemask penalty – before scoring on an eight-yard run. The PAT made it 27-20 with 1:43 to play.
Riggs went to work and completed three of his next four passes (8, 18 and 4 yards) and then scrambled for another 21 yards to place the ball at the 20 with :26 left. After an incomplete pass, Bayside secured the win when Riggs’ final pass of the night was picked off in the end zone.
“Once again, we were right there,” said Coach Riggs. “I think we did enough to win, we just came up short. I am proud of our effort and the fact we showed some pride by not giving up.
“We’ll see how we react to these first two games over the next week. I’ve got a feeling our guys will work hard and be ready next week since it’s our home-opener (vs. Excel).”