Late rally not enough for SHS

Published 2:05 am Saturday, October 18, 2008

BREWTON — Facing a deficit of 35 points midway through the third quarter Friday night, the No. 3 Straughn Tigers could have quit. But Straughn continued to fight and made a game of it late, before eventually falling to No. 1 T.R. Miller, 49-35.

“I’ve never been more proud of a group of kids after a loss,” Straughn coach Trent Taylor said. “Most teams would have said, ‘eh, let’s just fold it up,’ and they didn’t. We got some great leadership from all our classes tonight, not just seniors.”

Straughn (7-1, 5-1 in Class 3A, Region 1) started slow offensively and was held to three-and-out on its first three offensive possessions of the game. Miller (8-0, 6-0) scored touchdowns on four of its first five possessions to take a 28-0 lead with 7:43 left in the second quarter.

“We came out and dug ourselves in a hole,” Straughn senior quarterback Ryne Taylor said. “Give Miller credit, they came out ready. I think it was evident that we were a little jittery. We haven’t played a game of this magnitude at Straughn in a long time, and I think it showed.”

Straughn got on the board following a 16-yard touchdown run by Eric Samuel with 5:20 left in the first half that cut Miller’s lead to 28-7. Straughn had a chance to score another touchdown in the closing seconds of the first half, but Taylor’s desperation pass to the end zone fell incomplete with 0.5 seconds remaining.

Miller got out to its big lead by utilizing a powerful running attack, led by Matt Lane’s 200 yards and three touchdowns in the first half. Cortez Banks and Kenneth Fountain also had touchdowns on the ground for Miller.

At the start of the second half, Straughn gained a first down and advanced to the Miller 39-yard-line before turning it over on downs. Miller took over and marched down the field in nine plays to take a 42-7 lead with 5:01 left in the third quarter.

From that point in the game, Straughn scored on all four of its second-half offensive possessions.

A 4-yard touchdown run by Samuel with 11:52 left in the third quarter cut Miller’s lead to 42-14. Straughn’s defense held Miller to three-and-out on its next possession and Straughn followed with a eight-play scoring drive that went 64 yards and culminated with a 3-yard touchdown run by Samuel.

With 7:37 left in the game, Straughn tried an onside kick and successfully recovered, setting itself up on the Miller 49. Straughn faced a fourth-and-6 on the drive but converted when Taylor hooked up with C.J. Christopher for a 13-yard screen pass.

On the next play, Taylor went back deep and lofted the ball toward the end zone toward Jakim Felton. Felton, falling backwards into the end zone, reached out his left hand to snag the ball one-handed for a 32-yard touchdown. After Josh Dewrell’s extra point, Straughn cut the lead to 42-28 with 6:29 remaining.

Any hopes of a Straughn comeback were extinguished as Miller scored on the ensuing possession, with Fountain going in from 1 yard out on a fourth-and-goal play with 2:16 remaining.

But again, Straughn did not quit, adding its final touchdown of the game with 50.3 seconds left when Andrew Stokes ran it in from 4 yards out. A 44-yard reception by Felton helped spark the drive.

“Straughn is a good team,” T.R. Miller coach Jamie Riggs said. “We knew they were going to make a comeback in the second half and knew they are capable of making some big plays.”

Taylor finished the night 19-of-28 passing for 235 yards and a touchdown. Samuel led Straughn in rushing with eight carries for 43 yards and three touchdowns. Felton was the leading receiver with four catches for 82 yards.

Straughn remains on the road next Friday as it travels to face Luverne.