DHS-Jemison clash to decide region

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 14, 2005

Do numbers lie? Specifically, the numbers–Jemison’s 6-1 record overall and 5-0 mark in 4A Region 4–saying that Demopolis’s Friday night showdown with the Panthers will be the toughest test the Tigers will face in the 2005 regular season?

They very likely don’t, says DHS head coach Doug Goodwin, but that’s why they play the games.

“On paper, yeah,” Goodwin says when asked if the Panthers will be the biggest obstacle of the DHS regular season. “They’ve got the best record of anyone we’ll play. But you don’t know how you’ll match up until you get out there… It ought to be a good challenge.”

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How well Demopolis end up matching up may depend on the performance of the Tigers’ running backs. But Rock Jones’, Lucious Haywood’s, and Calvin Bryant’s performance Friday will be graded on more than how well they carry the ball. The Panthers employ what Goodwin calls a “very aggressive” defense that relies heavily on blitzes and defensive line stunts designed to take advantage of the visitors’ quickness on defense.

That means the running backs will take on an even greater role in pass protection than usual.

“It’s on the running backs,” Goodwin says. “We worked hard on it during the week.”

While the Jemison defense is quick and deceptive, it has also given up its share of points: Bibb. Co. scored 35 in a 13-point loss last week. The Panther’s strength is its high-octane quick-strike offense, led by sophomore quarterback no. 12 Jeffrey Alexander. The southpaw QB’s favorite target out of the Panthers’ preferred spread has been senior wide receiver Michael Seely, a first-year player who has blossomed into perhaps Jemison’s most impressive athlete.

Alexander will also have running back Justin Elkins and dangerous 6-5, 250 tight end Shawn Atchison at his disposal.

“They’re a very efficient offense,” Goodwin says. “They run and pass well.”

That offense will be attempting to become the first in five games to score on the Demopolis defense. Goodwin says the shutout streak, like the Tigers’ state-high 22-game winning streak, is nice. But it’s not something the team has focused on in practice.

“We don’t ever talk about that,” Goodwin says. “We just try to focus on the next game…If our starters do leave the game with a shutout, they sure don’t want the second team to give it up. But if you’re focusing on anything other the next game, or the next series, all kinds of bad things can happen. We tell our guys just to win the next play.”

The game will be Demopolis’s homecoming, and Goodwin says while the team appreciates the events surrounding the game, they also don’t have much of an impact on the team’s performance.

“Homecoming’s great,” Goodwin says. “it’s great for the cheerleaders, great for the fans, great for the school. But the festivities are for everyone else. Our job is to play the best football game we can. As long as we win, then homecoming’s good for us, too.”