0

Tiller time
New DB shows up just in time for Force victory

DULUTH - Three weeks ago Tony Tiller was playing in a flag football league.

The Stephenson grad had worked out for the Kansas City Chiefs after being cut three years into a career in the Canadian Football League.

In his first game with the Force last week he had five tackles and one pass defense.

In his second game, he came away with the game-deciding play as the Georgia came back for the fifth week in a row to win its fifth straight game 56-55 over division foe Tampa Bay.

For the past four weeks, the Force (8-5) have relied on late-game defensive stops to key each of their comebacks. Against the Storm (6-7), it didn't look like it was going to happen.

With 1:13 left, the Force trailed by six after a Matt Huebner touchdown run. Georgia's attempt at an onside kick failed and Tampa Bay had the ball, with a minute to play, 13 yards from the end zone.

On the first play, the Storm went for the kill as quarterback Brett Dietz lobbed a fade to the back right of the end zone. He lobbed it just short. Tiller reached out with his fingertips and grabbed the pass, returning down to the 14.

"I kind of baited him into that rout," Tiller said. "I knew before the play that I was going to go up and get it.

"I have prided myself on making big plays my whole career."

And two weeks ago, he didn't have his own pads.

"There are a lot of talented athletes out there just waiting for their opportunity," Georgia coach Doug Plank said. "They just never were at the right place at the right time. Tony is one of those players. He showed me in one practice that he has the physical capacity to play this game."

Down by six, the Force drained the final 46 seconds off the clock and capped off the drive on a fourth down quarterback run by Chris Greisen. Carlos Martinez knocked through the extra point and the celebration began.

"We knew we couldn't go up the middle," Greisen said. "Troy Bergeron made an unbelievable block on the linebacker, I thought I was going to have to put a shoulder down."

He didn't.

This is the second consecutive home game in which the Force scored in the finals seconds to secure the win. Three weeks ago, they overcame a 21-point deficit to beat New Orleans.

"They should learn (to stick around)," Greisen said of the crowd. "That interception by Tony was huge."

For most of the second half, it didn't look like Tiller's interception, or any defensive stop would come. Tampa Bay had scored on six straight possessions going back to the first play of the second quarter when Dietz fumbled on a hit by R-Kal Truluck.

At the time, the Force led 14-13 thanks to a missed extra point by Parkview grad Seth Marler and a touchdown grab by Carl Morris on a deflection off the end zone netting.

In the end, Marler's missed PAT equaled the one-point difference. Martinez didn't miss an extra point for the Force.

"It just shows how important every single play is," Greisen said.

The Force clung to a one-point lead at halftime, but Tampa Bay needed just two plays in the second half to take the lead, scoring on a 37-yards pass from Dietz to Terrill Shaw, regaining the lead at 34-28.

On the next possession, the Force offensive line gave up its fourth sack of the season, and first in 265 pass attempts, on second down for an 11-yard loss. The sack led to a Force turnover on downs when Bergeron dropped Greisen's fourth-down pass on the goal line.

The Storm turned the stop into points, taking a 41-28 lead with less than four minutes to play in the third quarter.

The two teams just traded scores until the Tiller interception.

"It's hard to believe that has become commonplace," Plank said. "They just stay together. They don't get disillusioned.

"Before something good happens, you have to believe it is going to happen. And not just believe but go out there and crank up your effort."