TRM’s 1991 team honored

Published 2:55 pm Tuesday, September 27, 2011

At T.R. Miller, alumni and students believe there are two words that define the Tiger football team: tradition and legacy.
The Tigers have celebrated six state championships — 1969, 1984, 1991, 1994, 2000 and 2002. T.R. Miller came close in 1990, but a championship in that season might have meant no championship the following year.
In 1990, the Tigers lost the state title in overtime to Deshler, 28-27. The following year, the 1991 got a second chance at the championship and staked claim to T.R. Miller’s third state title. That 1991 team was honored last weekend for their 20th reunion.
“Tradition has been a big part of what we do here at T.R. Miller,” said head coach Jamie Riggs, who was in his third year coaching the Tigers in 1991. “This was my first state championship team, and I was just a young pup at the time. It was just one of those years where everything went good for us. This group played really hard and played every Friday night. They were a close group, and I just remember the elation of winning the championship after the loss the year before. I remember how big of a deal it was in Brewton. For them to be able to come back and play Deshler and win the game the way we did, it was just a huge deal. It will always be special to me.”
Riggs said the team was one of T.R. Miller’s greatest teams.
“When you go 14-0, that is pretty good,” Riggs said. “Fourteen games is all we could play that year, and they won the championship game by 40 points so that was a group that made a playoff run and got better each week. We beat Daleville, who had a really good team, and Pike County had a good team. We won four playoff games against really good teams. Handley was expected to win the championship and Deshler had won 28 in a row and was the defending state champion. There were other teams that were good in north Alabama that year. For us to have won the championship that year was a pretty amazing feat just because of the tough competition that year.”
The 1991 Tiger team beat Deshler 46-6 in Brewton to win the state championship. The 1991 team scored 392 total points that season for an average of 28 points a game while allowing only 109 total points for 7.8 a game.
The team pitched four shutouts and allowed one touchdown or less in nine of the 14 games.
Riggs said the team was that they played well every week.
“They did not have an off week,” Riggs said. “Early in the year, our defense held us out early. They played really well because the offense was a little slow coming around. Then when we got in the playoffs, our offense got in stride. I think we had over 900 yards of offense in the last two games—semifinals and the championship game. I know James Fountain had over 475 yards in the last two games. That is pretty good. He 276 against Handley in the semifinals then 200 in the state championship game against Deshler.”
Riggs said another thing about the team was the loss to Deshler the year before in the championship game.
“We lost to them in 1990,” Riggs said. “We lost in overtime up there. The next year, they are undefeated and we are undefeated and we meet again which was pretty unusual for both of us to be undefeated again. We were both undefeated the year before. So then we go the entire schedule and end up playing again. They had won 28-straight games and we won the game 46-6. That is pretty good for a team that had won 28-straight games and we beat them by 40 points. We really played terrific in that championship game that night.”
Riggs said it meant more because they loss the year before to Deshler.
“Our whole community was just really excited about the game being here and getting another chance,” Riggs said. “You don’t get a second chance many times in life and all those guys on that team got a second chance. It was pretty neat.”
The 1991 state champion T.R. Miller Tiger football team was the third state championship team at the school, but the first for Riggs.
That team was honored this past weekend with a reunion organized by Riggs. The reunion brought back players from the 1991 season, along with cheerleaders, coaches and administrators. The group enjoyed a tailgate party and recognition ceremony before the game Friday night, then shared lunch and watched a DVD presentation commemorating the 1991 season on Saturday.
Riggs’ son Mikel, a former T.R. Miller player now coaching at Foley High School, produced the DVD created for the reunion. The DVD had player interviews with game footage throughout the season with Riggs narrating.
T.R. Miller assistant coach Jim Hart was on the coaching staff that season, and, fighting back tears Saturday, spoke to the team.
“It is great to see you all again,” Hart said. “You are a great bunch of kids and always played hard. You did what you were supposed to do. We have seen a lot of changes since 1991, but one thing that will not change is how special you will always be to all of us. You were the first state championship team for coach Riggs and his staff. You were part of a special part of T.R. Miller history as you had the most wins in the state of Alabama in the 1990s. They will never take that away from you and you will always be special to us for that reason. You were not an ordinary group. We have loved you since the day you left here and we will always love you.”
Hart said he remembers standing on that sideline in Deshler in 1990 and staring into the 1991 players’ faces and seeing the hurt.
“Some of you were juniors and some of you were younger. I remember starting practice in 1991 and you refused to let that happen again,” Hart said. “Things have changed a lot in how we do things now. We have computers and other things now and it is real foreign to me. Things have changed since then. The times when ya’ll played, you had to be tough and you were. We appreciate that. Technology has changed a lot since then. Before I came here this morning, along with coach Riggs and the other coaches, we watched the game from Friday night on our computer. We did a film session of the kids we coached. Later on, they will be able to sit down and listen to us review that game and they will listen to us correct their mistakes or compliment them on things done well. When y’all played, you got the six-page, hand-written scouting reports on Monday from a legal pad.”
Hart said he would never forget the team’s work ethic — even in the face of some difficult conditions.
“Our weight room (underneath the home bleachers) was little and it smelled bad and it was hot and you didn’t complain and you did what you were supposed to do,” Hart said. “I hate you could not be one of the teams now to go through the new field house and those facilities, but that stuff never slowed you down. I just remember you refusing to lose. We would get behind and things would get tough, but we found a way to do what you were to do and you played like you were coached. If someone got hurt, someone else stepped up. Everyone did their part. The main thing I remember, you bought into coach Riggs’ philosophy. You played with discipline and character. The state championship game, the Handley ballgame and the Daleville game stick out in my mind. The state championship game was big time payback. You played your butts off.”
Hart recalled that former principal and assistant coach Donnie Rotch, who was killed in a car wreck in August 2010, would be proud of what the players have become.
“I can’t leave today without telling you, we are missing one guy,” Hart said. “He loved you. I know that Donnie is looking down, and my words to you are ‘hey Hoss, I love you a bunch.’”
Josh Brown played center for T.R. Miller and attended the reunion.
“There are a lot of memories from the 1991 season and a lot of life’s lessons learned,” Brown said. “We played hard and it worked out for the best.”
Gerald Thomas served as captain for the Tigers.
“We had a good year and I was able to play with some good people and some good coaches,” Thomas said.
Willie Smith also served as captain.
“I want to thank everyone who had a hand in this,” Smith said. “In 1990 when we lost, I was hurt. We started back in 1991 and everyone worked hard, from the smallest to the biggest. It made my job easier. I got a lot of credit for things, but the team made it happen.”
Riggs told the players that in the fall of 1984, he was assigned to teach PE at Brewton Middle School. “When I got over there, the 1991 seniors were in the fifth grade,” he said. “Mike Sasser was head coach at the time and I remember telling him that there were some players at the middle school who could play. I told him to just wait and they are coming and we are going to win some games when they get in high school. But the thing I remember the most, was playing touch football at P.E. One of y’all had to win and the other lose. You were not good losers. If you lost, you were big time mad and some would cry. I would sit y’all down and tell you that was not how you were supposed to act if you lost. One way you decided to fix that was just not to lose anymore. I have always remembered that about you.”
While going through footage and scrapbook material for the reunion, coach Riggs found a quote from Deshler head coach Tandy Geralds after the 1991 championship game in Brewton.
Gerlads was in his 50s then and had won a lot of games, Riggs said.
“The night we played the state championship game here, he smoked a pipe,” Riggs said. “Before the game, I was talking to him. It had been a really cold fall in October and the Neal game that year was really cold. If it was cold in Brewton, it was sure cold in Tuscumbia (where Deshler is located). They had played in all these cold games. The night of the championship game, a front came through and the high was 70 degrees and when they got here that night, it was warm and the humidity was up and he knew. This is what he said to their team after the game: ‘Last year, T.R. Miller lost without whining or complaining. This year, they won with pride and without arrogance.’ That was a good quote from a football coach and he meant every word of it.”
Riggs said watch the video Saturday brought back a lot of memories.
“When we started watching the video, we remembered those things,” he said. “It was good and something we just have been looking forward to. We started planning this back in the spring and the way we were able to do the video from history and record the thoughts, hopefully it will be around for a long time. We gave everyone a copy of it, so it is good. You don’t live in the past, but it is good to relive the past every once and awhile.”

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About Adam Robinson

My name is Adam Robinson and I have been the Sports Editor of the Brewton Standard since September 2007. I cover all the local sports in the Brewton area. I am a 2007 graduate of Troy University with a degree in Print Journalism with a contract in Sports Information. I married Shari Lynn in June of 2007 and we welcomed our first child, Hatlee, in April of 2010.

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