Physical Tigers batter WCHS Bulldogs, climb back into region hunt

Published 7:46 am Monday, October 10, 2011


Progress and toughness can’t always be measured in size, speed, strength … or even in won-loss records. Rather, when the two matter most they are measured in the eyes and the hearts of those who can leave a football field with legs cramping so badly they have to be helped to the bus. They are measured by the blood on the fingers of offensive and defensive linemen who have scratched and crawled through the muck and mire of the trenches to pave the way for 300-plus yards rushing while at the same time holding a more heralded offense at bay. And, they are measured by a running back whose muscles ache and whose bruises show what 20 hard-fought carries for 119 yards really looks like.
To be sure, progress and toughness are not seen in individuals at all; but on the collective smiles of those T.R. Miller Tigers who battled with their whole hearts when few outside of Brewton believed they could win … and they did.
On the road.
In a hostile environment.
And now the rest of the region will take notice of these same Tigers who entered their Friday contest with Washington County as the fourth seed in the Region 1 playoff hunt and came away with a 21-16 win that places them at 4-1 within the league and 5-2 overall. Entering the game, the Bulldogs (5-2, 4-2) still had a chance for a region championship run, only to see that dream all but die with their second straight region loss. T.R. Miller – looking ahead to next week’s grudge match with Trinity (which lost to Bayside 42-9), then Montgomery Catholic in two weeks – has a chance to bounce into the second seed with two more wins.
Friday’s win against Washington County proved once again the value of a team of guys playing their hearts out for each other, and refusing to give an inch. The Tigers grounded out a grueling 318 yards on the ground behind the likes of offensive linemen Caleb McAnally, Curtis Glaize, Hunter Jernigan, Austin Graddy and Tyler Etheridge. They paved the way for both Dominique Jackson (20-119) and Kameron Coleman (8-101) to break the 100-yard barrier.
On the defensive side, the front four of hard-nosed Tyler Nelms – quietly having a great season defensively – Allen Boyd, McAnally and Graddy helped anchor a defense that held the high-scoring Bulldog offense to 16 points, half of the 32 they have averaged this year.
“I am proud to walk off this field with these guys,” said T.R. Miller head coach Jamie Riggs, celebrating his 56th birthday. “We played with a lot of heart and courage, especially in the second half. Our defense was very physical.
“You know, we talked all week long about having courage and boy, we needed a big win like this. We knew we had to come here and be tough and I would definitely say this is the most physical we have been all year. I’m really proud of them.”
The Tigers outscored the Bulldogs 7-6 in the first half and 14-10 in the second, having to withstand a last-ditch effort by Washington County to finally put this one in the books.
The Bulldogs scored to make it 21-16 with 33 seconds left when quarterback Dane Howard hit Brandon Johnson on an unlikely touchdown pass from the 12-yard line when the ball was snapped over his head, rolled all the way to the 38 before he scooped it up and heaved it toward the end zone, where Johnson was all alone to haul it in.
With the game looking all too eerily to be panning out like last year’s T.R. Miller Hail Mary Miracle, the Tigers dashed all hopes when Kameron Winn gobbled up the onside-kick attempt to allow his team to run out the clock.
But before all that excitement happened, the key to the game – other than what has already been mentioned – was a 12-play, nearly six-minute drive to start the fourth quarter that culminated in the deciding touchdown.
During that drive, in which Jackson and Coleman carried the bulk of the weight of the drive, the Tigers converted two fourth-down situations and two third-down opportunities. While Jackson carried four plays for 18 yards, Coleman added four for 21, covering the final seven yards for the eventual game winner.
That possession came on the heels of another key drive, where Washington County was forced to kick a 27-yard field goal midway through the third when the Tiger defense stiffened and held back the Bulldogs, who had first down at the T.R. Miller 14-yard line.
“Football is a tough game and has to be played by tough people,” said Tiger defensive coordinator Chris Baxter. “It says a lot for us to come here and win. We are making progress and getting better and tonight was all about being tough. While we still have a lot of work to do, we can be proud of what we did here tonight.”
The Tigers got on the board first when Jamaal Spears broke through to block a Bulldog punt and Ricky Curry came behind him to scoop it up and ramble 16 yards for the score. Kevin Davis was true on the first of his three PAT kicks.
Washington County came back to score in the second quarter when Howard got free on a keeper and went 29 yards for the score. But an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty backed his team up for the PAT and the kick from the longer distance went wide to keep it at 7-6 through the half.
From there, Kameron Coleman broke free for a 59-yard touchdown midway through the third quarter, setting up the fourth-quarter excitement that finally ended with the Tiger win.
T.R. Miller will return home to take on nemesis Trinity next week before going on the road again for a matchup with Montgomery Catholic two weeks from now.