WAP has to find consistency in its offense to handle the Tigers

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Commentary by Mike Grayson

Editor’s Note: Mike Grayson’s column will begin appearing as a regular feature of The Times.

Week 6 – but now week 5 due to Hurricane Ivan breezing through – has all three local teams at home. DHS takes on regional rival Southside Selma, WAP hosts MMI and John Essex has a big regional grudge match with the Linden Patriots.

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WAP must find some consistent offense to be able to take down the Tiger Cadets. There is good news and bad news for the Titans. Bad news first, MI will bring a couple good athletes to town Friday night. Good news: MI has not worked together as a team as long as WAP has. Many times the MI coaching staff will not be certain of its starters until the final enrollment has been completed. WAP handled MI, Alabama’s oldest military school, last year 27-18.

In 2004 MI (0-4) has been blown out in games one and two – 47-0 by both Southern Academy and Shelby Academy. WAP (2-2, which includes their forfeit win over Marengo) has been respectable in all their games so far this year.

Why is John Essex vs. Linden a grudge game? Consider the angles. Last year John Essex mangled the Patriots 58-0 on their way to an 8-2 record only to be tagged with having played a couple of ineligible players and were forced to forfeit 6 victories. There are some in the John Essex camp who believe it was Linden who turned them in to the AHSAA. Prior to last year, JEHS had been outscored 130-8 in losses from 2000-2002. John Essex (3-1) is coming off a 22-7 win over Francis Marion (3A). Linden is riding a three-game win streak after the opening loss to Woodland. This is a must win regional game for both squads as Linden is 2-0 in regional play and John Essex is 1-1 – the only setback coming to American Christian who Linden must play on the road next week.

Friday, Oct. 1, Demopolis will host the biggest cat fight in West Alabama thus far this season. The Southside-Selma Panthers come to town boasting a 4-0 record, 2-0 in the region, which Demopolis mirrors. Last week, the Panthers went out of conference to scratch up Central-Hayneville (3A) 44-6, while Demopolis blanked Northridge (5A) 42-0.

Since 1974, DHS owns Southside. The Fighting Tigers are 6-0 vs. the Panthers, the last being a 44-20 homecoming win in 1999, Doug Goodwin’s first year in Demopolis. In that 1999 game, the Demopolis backfield was comprised of freshman quarterback Dusty Goodwin (now at Auburn), junior running back Anthony Harris (now at Southern Miss), and senior running back David Cherry (a UWA signee).

Southside, formerly in 4A Region 3 along with Trinity and St. James of Montgomery, was realigned into Region 4 this year. Coach Christopher Raymond is starting his third year at Southside. The Panthers were 4-6 in 2002, then bounced back last year to post an 8-2 regular season record, finishing second in the region to the regional champ and eventual state champion Trinity. Four points separated SSHS from a perfect regular season, a 21-20 to loss to Trinity and a road loss to always tough Stanhope Elmore (5A) 10-6.

In 2003 playoff action, the Panthers hosted the first round of action and nipped Rehobeth 12-7. Round two was a reality check as UMS hosted Southside and clobbered them, 35-6.

Coach Raymond’s philosophy is similar to Alabama’s 1992 National Championship team: “smash mouth” football and defense. In other words, don’t let your offense beat you. The Tigers should expect a very physical game.

Demopolis has played 17 quarters of shut out football extending from the fourth quarter of last year’s semi-final loss to Trinity through this past Friday night’s pasting of Northridge in Tuscaloosa. The Demopolis defense is not only unscored on but has become quite “offensive” the past two games. The Tiger defenders have put points on the board against Dallas County (Ezell Braxton’s safety and Dontrell Miller’s interception for a TD) and Northridge (Vincent Jackson’s fumble recovery in the end zone).

The keys to victory for Demopolis are to continue to play with confidence and avoid the penalty bug that has plagued them the past two weeks. Southside must have their heads on a swivel as Demopolis will come at them from all angles and all phases of the game. If speed and quickness are to be a factor of the game, DHS – as the record bears out – will be the irresistible force. The question of the night: Will the Panthers be the immovable object? Even the half time show will be contested as Southside will bring their always funky high steppers in to challenge The River City Blue. The game, the show will all be there at Memorial Stadium Friday night.