Reliving the dream: TRM 2002 Championship team to be honored

Published 6:04 pm Tuesday, October 18, 2022

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An event 20 years in the making has been set for the 2002 Championship team at T.R. Miller High School.
A special reunion celebration will span two days beginning with a tailgate party Friday at Brewton Municipal Stadium.
Former T.R. Miller High School coach Jamie Riggs, who was head coach during the championship season, said the event is gearing up to be a grand celebration of the anniversary game.
“It has been 20 years since our great championship season of 2002,” Riggs said. “the years have flown by quickly, but time has not faded the memories of the people, the spirit, the games and the tremendous effort on Legion Field on that championship day when we defeated Colbert County 38 to 6. We want to celebrate this anniversary with a special event at T.R. Miller High School.”
Riggs said the celebration will begin at 5:30 with a tailgate party sponsored by the T.R. Miller Athletic Club. During a pregame ceremony, players and coahces will be introduced to the fans at the stadium prior to the game between the current TRM team and St. Michael’s Catholic School.
On Saturday, the celebration will continue with a luncheon for the returning players and guests followed by a special noon presentation of the 2002 State Championship video and program in the T.R. Miller High School auditorium. The noon presentation is open to the public. Players, coaches and guests will be available for pictures following the presentation.
Riggs said the 2002 Championship win was one that will stay on the hearts and minds of many for years to come.
“It was November 29, 2002 and the T.R. Miller football team sent their defense out to defend a two-point conversion by Montgomery Academy in the semifinals of the 3A state playoffs,” Riggs recalled. “It had been an incredible roller coaster of a season for this Miller team, which uncharacteristically had won only six regular season games. The visiting Tigers led 14 to 12 with just seconds left in the game. As our weary defense stood and awaited the Eagle offense to align, the fans from Brewton cheered loudly, only three yards separating incredible victory from overwhelming defeat.
“The TRM Tigers of 2002 had proved to be inconsistent, but incredibly stubborn. They had more than one opportunity to cash in the season, part of a great high school football tradition that just wasn’t having a good year. As their coach, I had encouraged them to keep working and improving, to become the team that we had envisioned in August but had disappeared during the regular season.
“The year started out well with a big victory over Escambia County. A gut wrenching, one point upset loss to a good Straughn team the next week showed cracks in our armor and hurt our confidence. Victories over Clarke County and Calhoun seemed to help, but on Sept. 27, this group of tigers didn’t appear to have the stripes of the past Miller squads. Leading a good Andalusia squad 31 to 14 going into the fourth quarter, we gave up three touchdowns and lost the game 35 to 31. Teams that have T.R. Miller on the back of their jerseys just don’t do things like that.
“We had some ability, but we just weren’t playing together as a unit. We didn’t seem to understand the meaning of ‘team.’
“We bested Elba and Central of Hayneville to run our record to 5-2. Next was a big region encounter on the road with a very good Pike County squad. We took our shovels with us and gu ourselves a 19-0 hole. One thing became evident that made this Miller team different from most of the others. When we were bad, we were very bad. But when we were good, we could be very, very good.
“As the second half of the game began to disappear, we finally got mad and quit feeling sorry for ourselves. We made the final score 19-13, but in the midst of this loss there was something different about our players as we made the two hour trip back from Brundidge. The spirit on that bus was not of defeat, but of a group that finally decided to exercise teamwork and let it lead them the rest of the way.
“I think we really have a pretty team’ I said after the game. I guess we will find out for sure in the days to come.
“After a 39 to 6 victory over W.S. Neal, we had an open week to heal up and prepare for a T.R. Miller playoff run. During the next month, we practiced and played with a spirit of confidence and teamwork.”
Riggs recalled the games and scores during playoff games on the road. In the first round, the Tigers defeated Dadeville 35-0; followed by an upset win over Cleburne County 35-0. Meeting Springville, the team see-sawed to a victory 35-21 leading to a semi-final match against Montgomery Academy. A victory in that game sent the Tigers to Birmingham and the Super 6 Championship.
That Birmingham trip would find the Tigers facing Colbert County again.
“One thing we had learned from previous trips to the Super 6 is that starting fast is critical to victory,” Riggs said. “We did just that as the defense stopped Colbert County on the first series and Brad Lannom hit James Agerton with a huge pass on the first play. Joseph Tuner kicked a field goal and we led 3-0. Our offensive line began to dominate the game and Lannom was on target. A rew moments later he hit tight end Dominic Johnson with a touchdown pass to run the lead to 10-0. A recovered fumble gave Lannom a chance to toss the ball to Antwan Gomez, who handed it back to Lannom. He fired a pass toward the end zone where senior Brent Salter made a leaping grab to give us a 17-0 advantage.”
Riggs recalled Lannom trowing a TD pass to Trent Davidson in the game that was dominated by the Tiger defense led by Galloway, Michael Jones and Webster Bailey. Lannom was 7-8 passing for 165 yards and three touchdowns and was named MVP following the Tigers’ 38 to 6 win for their sixth state football championship.
“This weekend we celebrate the 20th year of this great championship season,” Riggs said. “This group may have only won six regular season games, but through teamwork defeated five playoff squads that had all won 10 or more games. Most importantly, they learned that playing together as a team might just give you a chance to live up to the name on the back of the jersey.”

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