There were really no surprises.
Montgomery Academy knew that visiting T.R. Miller would line up and run the ball right at them. That’s what happened. The Tigers won 21-14 and will advance to the third round of the playoffs and MA’s season has ended. “They lined up and ran the football. We knew they would do that. They got a little tired in the second half, especially after we made a few adjustments,” MA coach Gary Nelson said. “We also threw some fresh bodies at them. We were determined they would not run over us.”
MA’s never say die mentality showed up in the second half as the team fought to the end, and impressed the Tigers coach. “We played hard and drove the ball well in the first half, but they sure stopped us in the second half. They made some changes and you got to give MA credit…they played a tough game and gave us all we wanted. I really admire them,” Brent Hubbert said.
Miller came out of the gate looking very strong. After the opening kickoff the Tigers drove 65 yards on the ground with ease and on the seventh play found the end zone. Miller would score again midway in the second quarter after MA lost a fumble and was intercepted. Lawson Pemberton blocked the extra point attempt and the Tigers led 13-0.
MA extended its next drive with a fake punt and completed pass from Britton Kohn to Jamal Cooper. But after reaching the Tigers 11 yard line Kohn was dumped for a loss and the Eagles missed a 40 yard field goal attempt near the end of the first half.
“We couldn’t pull it off because we turned the ball over and couldn’t get it in when we were in the red zone. I thought Britton did a great job tonight and he was under duress constantly. They brought a lot more pressure than we anticipated and we had to fight conditions that were not made for throwing the ball,” Nelson explained.
MA had difficulty running the ball and resorted to the air. Under the rainy conditions and a slick field the Eagles did a good job in the passing department. “We thought the conditions would kill the passing game for us and it did. But it didn’t stop theirs. They did a great job throwing the ball in these conditions,” Hubbert said.
Kohn competed 16 of 29 passes for 221 yards. William Robertson had six receptions for 116 yards and Jon Clarke Woodward added 67 yards on four catches. But the biggest reception came at 8:48 in the third quarter. MA took the second half kickoff and marched down the field with authority. Kohn threw a 30 yard touchdown pass to a leaping Hilsman James and the Eagles were back in the game.
The Tigers came right back to score and converted a two point effort to make the score 21-7. But, the Eagles didn’t surrender.
“We had to do something different in the second half and we stopped them for the most part. We were determined not to give in,” MA’s Jack Anzalone said. Teammate William Robertson was in agreement. “The first half they had sustained drives. We came out in the second half and dug in our heels. We gave a great effort and it was a great season,” Robertson said.
James led MA on defense with 12 tackles. William Robertson had 11 tackles. Anzalone and Judson Lindsey had eight stops each.
The Eagles made another comeback early in the fourth quarter. After completions to Woodward, Robertson and Mac Main, Kohn scrambled and made it to the end zone. Once again MA was knocking on the door with the score 21-14. The Eagles turned the ball over again and after an excellent defensive stand that forced a Tigers punt, had their final drive fizzle with the clock running down.
Miller took possession and ran out the clock to terminate the Eagles season at 7-5. T.R. Miller, now 8-4, will travel to face defending 3A champion Flomaton next week.
“There were times this season when it looked like we were getting weak. But our kids hate to lose,” Nelson said. “This may sound strange but I am proud of the way we lost games. We always bounced back and learned something. We became a better football team because of the losses. That experience will be a big lesson for our kids as they go out into the world. It is a great honor to be their coach.”
“All I can say is that we left everything on the field. We are very proud,” an emotional Anzalone said.