“Oh yeah, oh yeah,” he says with a sly smile.
The reason being, his Tiger squad—a 31-point underdog—completely dominated the Leopards in the first 24 minutes of the first-round playoff game and enthusiastically headed for the lockerroom with a 22-8 lead.
The second half was a different story.
Battering ram quarterback Harris Coleman got up a head of steam and pushed and shoved Lorena to 28 unanswered points as the Tigers stood by helpless and stunned in a 36-22 loss.
Miller—leading the Tigers to the playoffs for the sixth time—chalked up the loss to field position, not a pourous defense.
“The biggest thing was we were converting third and fourth down opportunities (the Tigers converted four fourth down conversions in the second quarter),” he said. “In the second half, we weren’t able to do that and the ball was always down at our end of the field.”
Past history notwithstanding, the 6-foot, 230-pound Coleman is back punishing would-be tacklers again and giving defenses and defensive coordinators headaches—both figuratively and physically.
“He’s as tough as they come,” Miller said. “You won’t find a better pure foot ball player.” Coleman lost all but one of his starting offensive linemen from last season and his numbers are down, but he is no less dangerous, leading the 9-1 Leopards to a share of the District 17-3A championship.
Lorena’s lone loss came at the hands of co-champion Connally.
Coleman has run for 1,396 yards and 20 touchdowns and passed for another 1,166 yards and 15 touchdowns.
In his 2 1/2 year varsity career, Coleman has accounted for 6,812 yards of total offense and 90 touchdowns.
In the Leopards 55-41 comefrom behind victory over China Spring Friday, Coleman carried the ball 32 times and ran for 224 yards and four scores and passed for another 173 yards and two touchdowns.
The Leopards are averaging 44 points a game and have scored over 50 points five times, including a 75-67 slugfest with Salado.
In an apparition, the Leopards slipped by Robinson 11-7 as Harris was limited to 91 yards on the ground.
Lorena—who has won at least one playoff game in the past five seasons—provides no slight-ofhand when carrying out their offensive plan. Think Wildcat formation on every down.
“We may spread the field out and we’ll take cheap yards when we can get them, but this is who we are,” said Leopard Coach Ray Biles, who is in his 22nd year at Lorena. “It’s not like the rest of the world doesn’t know who we are. They know what we’re going to try to do, but we have to create that physical presence where we can run the ball.”
“That’s definitely a big reason for our success,” Coleman said. “Being able to have a team worrying about the run game and being able to pull back and throw it is one of our bigger advantages.”
One significant difference in this year’s matchup and last, is that the Tigers will have the services of all-state linebacker James David to mirror Coleman.
David was injured last season and id not participate in the game. Still, the 2012 loss looms for the Tigers, but there are lessons to be learned rom it.
“We’ve learned a lot about ourselves from last year,” Miller said. “We showed ourselves we can play with them.”
• In other 18-3A action, Taylor enters the large school division and faces LaVega in Killeen. Navasota drops down into the small school bracket and battles Robinson at Waco ISD and Madisonville takes on Connally.
• With his 130 yards Elijah Brooks cracked the 1,000-yard mark for the second consecutive season, becoming just the third Tiger to do so, behind Don Wesley (1976-77) and Ira White (1992-93).
• Brooks now has 2,172 yards in his career, which pushes him into sixth place on the all-time list, just ahead of his father Tony (2,145).
• Brooks also scored twice to give him 16 touchdowns on the season and 29 in his career which puts him third on the alltime list behind leader Blade Bassler’s 35 (1999-2000) and brother Daniel’s 31 (2009-10).
• With five catches for 75 yards Friday, Pearce Loth is moving closer to Cody Skubal’s school records of 52 receptions for 910 yards in 2011 wth 50 for 873. Loth’s three touchdown receptions Friday gives him 10 for the year which ties Skubal’s mark.
• led the Tigers in tackles against Caldwell.
• In the 10th game of the season, the Tigers featured three new starters in linemen Javier Mayberry, MIchael Boyd and Derek Whitsel. Mayberry was starting at left tackle for Jakob Moreland who started on defense, while Boyd returned to the starting lineup after missing six weeks with a knee injury and Whitsel stepped in at linebacker for James Castilleja who was suspended from the team.
• Three of the four teams that defeated the Tigers were district champions (Cameron, Liberty Hill, Navasota). The four teams combined ror a 32-6 record.
ROCKDALE VS. LORENA
What: Rockdale Tigers (6-4) vs. Lorena Leopards (9-1). Division II, Region III bi-district playoff. Where: Crusader Stadium, Belton (7,671 capacity, Astroplay surface). When: Friday, 7:30 p.m. Favorite: Lorena by 10. Last week: Rockdale 69, Caldwell 21; Lorena 55, China Spring 41. Series: Lorena leads 4-3. Last meeting: 2012, Lorena 36-22. Enrollment: Rockdale 474; Lorena 514. Playoff history: Rockdale 23 trips (19-21); Lorena 14 trips (24-12). Last playoff apperance: Rockdale 2012; Lorena 2012. Last playoff victory: Rockdale def. Cleveland in 2008; Lorena def. Fairfield in 2012. State championships: Rockdale 1976, Lorena 1987. District outlook: Rockdale was second (3-1) in District 18-3A to Navasota; Lorena tied for first (4-1) with Connally in 17-3A. Common opponents: Rockdale def. Madisonville 33-21, def. Salado 47-21; Lorena def. Madisonville 24-18, def. Salado 75-67. Streaking: Lorena has won four straight and nine of 10. Rockdale has won five of six. Leopard to watch: No. 19, 6-0, 210-pound, Sr. QB Harris Coleman (2,165 total yards, 29 touchdowns). Coaches: Jeff Miller, 8th year at Rockdale (43-42, 78-63 in 14 years); Ray Biles, 132-101 in 22 years, all at Lorena. Best place to eat: Schoepf’s Barbecue, Central Ave. Exit 294 on North IH35. Tickets: $7 at the gate. $4 for