Demopolis Dominance

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 17, 2005

DEMOPOLIS–The best defense is a good offense, the saying goes. Sometimes, though, it’s the other way around.

That was the case Friday night as Demopolis turned six Jemison turnovers into 28 points on their way to a 49-14 homecoming victory. With the win, Demopolis moves to 8-0 on the season and clinches the Class 4A Region 4 title at 6-0. Jemison falls to 6-2 overall, 5-1 in regional play.

After the first quarter ended with a 7-7 tie, the game turned on a pair of second-quarter touchdowns scored by the Demopolis defense. The visiting Panthers appeared to have momentum after the Tigers’ first possession of the quarter ended with a missed Justin Davis field goal despite beginning on the Jemison 21. The stop was followed by a 17-yard screen pass from Jeffrey Alexander to Michael Seely that set Jemison up at their own 41.

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But two plays later Panther running back Justin Elkins was stripped of the ball along the left hash mark by Demopolis safety Dontrell Miller. The Tigers’ Willie Gracey scooped up the loose ball and had clear sailing for a 47 yard touchdown to put Demopolis up 14-7 with 8:03 remaining in the half.

The Tiger secondary struck again less than a minute later. After the ensuing kickoff, with the ball on the Jemison 29, Alexander lofted a pass along the left sideline that was picked off by Miller. Demopolis’s All-State safety dodged and weaved his way across the field and leapt into the opposite corner of the end zone for a 45-yard score. Davis added his third extra point and the Tigers took a sudden 21-7 lead.

Things would only go downhill from there for Jemison. On the Panthers’ next possession a 16-yard screen to tight end Shawn Atchison appeared to stop the bleeding, but back-to-back sacks by DHS tackle Perry Little forced a punt from the Panthers’ own 15. The kick was short and after taking over on the Jemison 33, the Tigers capitalized four plays later with a 23-yard touchdown run by Rock Jones. The extra point was blocked and the halftime score was 27-7.

Demopolis wasted little time putting the game away in the third. A 46-yard bomb from Miller to Gracey on the Tigers’ first snap of the second half put the ball on the Jemison 4. Jones scored his second rushing touchdown from nine yards out two plays later and after Miller carried for the two-point conversion, it was 35-7 Demopolis with 9:47 left in the quarter.

The Tiger defense helped produce seven more points by forcing another turnover on Jemison’s next possession. Alexander tried another screen pass but this time a Tiger defender batted the ball in the air and Gracey came down with the interception on the Panther 20. Six consecutive runs by Jones, Calvin Bryant, and fullback Jacob Smelley resulted in a 1-yard plunge by Bryant and with 6:00 remaining in the third quarter the game was a 42-7 rout.

It did not look like the contest would be quite so lopsided after an evenly played first quarter. Demopolis’s defense got off to a hot start when Ezell Braxton stepped in front of an Alexander pass and made the pick on only the Panthers’ second play from scrimmage. Dwiuan White carried up the middle for a 25-yard touchdown two plays later and the Tigers held a 7-0 lead with 10:10 still to play in the opening quarter.

But the Panthers would respond. A sack and tackle-for-loss by Braxton forced a punt, but the Tigers were called for roughing the kicker and Jemison made them pay for the mistake. A 7-yard reception by Atchison converted a third-down and gave the visitors a first down at the DHS 39. Two carries by Nick Eggers and a completion to Elkins put the ball on the DHS 9 and Alexander did the rest, carrying to the 1 and then sneaking in for the score and a tie game. The points were the first scored o nthe Tiger defense in five games, dating back to Sept. 9 against Dallas Co.

But the Panthers wouldn’t see the end zone until late in the third quarter, when a 30-yard bomb to Elkins moved Jemison into Tiger territory and Alexander again scored from a yard out to cut the Demopolis lead to 42-14.

But DHS running back Lucious Haywood recovered Jemison’s desperation onsides kick and four plays later, after a brilliant 32-yard Miller run in which he broke a series of Panther tackles, Bryant scored from 7 yards out to restore the Tigers’ 35-point advantage.

Jemison threatened again after an over-the-shoulder catch by Seely put the Panthers on the DHS 30, but Little forced an Alexander fumble and Justin Jackson made the Demopolis recovery for the Tigers’ sixth turnover.

The win is Demopolis’s 38th straight in the regular season and 23rd overall, while the loss snaps a six-game Jemison winning streak. Next week Demopolis plays host to Greene Co. while Jemison will take on Dallas Co. at home.