Rehobeth may be biggest test yet for Tigers

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 11, 2005

Friday, the Demopolis Tigers will put their 26-game winning streak on the line in the second round of the 4A playoffs. They will face the Rehobeth Rebels, 10-1 on the year and ranked no. 9 in the state. On paper, they are easily the strongest team the Tigers have faced this season.

So the intensity in practice this week has been turned way up, right? Wrong.

“It’s about like normal,” says DHS head coach Doug Goodwin. “Some good plays, some bad plays, one good day and then a bad day. Pretty typical for us.”

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Some fans might ask if “typical” is the appropriate intensity level the week of such a massive game, but Goodwin says “typical” is exactly what he wants to see.

“Every week needs to be the same,” he says. “When you get to this point of the season, there’s no difference whether it’s the finals or the first game. The same things that won the first game are the same things that would win the last game.”

It’s fair to say that Goodwin would be happy if his team did the same things they did last week in the Tigers’ 48-7 blowout of Handley. Demopolis dominated the visitors from Randolph Co. from start to finish, outgaining them 471 yards to 169, not allowing a first down until the score was already 28-0, and exploding for 34 second-quarter points on their way to a 41-7 halftime lead.

Goodwin was pleased with the performance, but that hardly means there hasn’t been plenty to work on in preparation for the Rebels.

“You never play perfect. There’s an old saying, ‘You’re never as good as you looked, and you’re never as bad as you looked,'” he says. “We missed a block here or there. You’re going to make mistakes … I would say we played very, very well in all three phases. But that’s what we expect.”

It’s the same point-of-view Goodwin takes with his quarterback. Dontrell Miller completed 11 of 15 passes for 278 yards and a score, recorded 79 yards and two touchdowns on the ground, and notched a fourth touchdown on an electrifying punt return. But his head coach says there’s no reason to think he won’t do the same thing this week.

“He did what I expected him to do,” Goodwin says. “He went 11 for 15, but he could have been 15 of 15. He did play very well, but that’s what we expect out of him and what he expects out of himself.”

Even if Miller does repeat his performance, it seems unlikely Demopolis will have nearly as easy a time of it as the Tigers did against Handley. The Rebels possess a powerful running game that will test the DHS front seven. Bruising running back Dewitt Hogan, change-of-pace back Cord Grider, and speedy quarterback Tramekius James are all experienced seniors capable of getting yards and moving chains.

“They’ve got two good running backs,” Goodwin says. “[Hogan’s] big, about 240, and [Grider’s] smaller and really fast. Their QB is very athletic.”

Perhaps even more impressive than the Rebels’ ability to run is their ability to stop the run.

“Their defense is very aggressive,” Goodwin says. “They’ve played really well against the run. They get to the ball really well.”

To keep their season-long dominance on the ground going, Demopolis’s lines on both sides of the ball will have to play with even more energy than usual.

“On offense, you have to move your feet, hit them, and stick with them. There’s more of an emphasis on maintaining your blocks,” Goodwin says. “We have to do on defense what we have to keep them from doing on offense. We have to get off the blocks and get to the ball. It’s not complicated.”

A win could match Demopolis up with rivals Thomasville for the second straight playoffs. The Demopolis-Rehobeth winner will take on the winner of the Cleburne Co.-Thomasville game to be played in Heflin.

Kickoff for all AHSAA playoff games is set for 7 p.m.