Thomasville hopes to stop Miller

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 18, 2005

By now, Thomasville head coach Jack Hankins has seen more than his fair share of Demopolis on film. It’s safe to say he hasn’t quite liked what he’s seen.

“They’re so dangerous,” he says. “Dontrell Miller, if there was a Heisman for high school players, he’d be it. He’s Mr. Football, everything. He’s unbelievable.”

Hankins’s Thomasville Tigers will have the responsibility of trying to contain Miller when Demopolis visits for the two teams’ Class 4A quarterfinal. While not many teams have succeeded in slowing down the Tigers’ All-State talent, Hankins says his team will focus on their jobs and play sound fundamental defense.

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“Everybody has to play assignment football. We have to keep him in front of us,” he says. “If there’s no containment we won’t be able to score enough points to keep up.”

Those containment duties will fall to the Thomasville front seven, led by seniors Michael Knight, a defensive tackle, and Caleb Wells, a linebacker. The two each recorded 12 tackles to lead the Tigers in their 28-27 overtime win over Cleburne Co. in the second round last week.

Of course, Hankins points out that the easiest way to contain Miller is to make first downs, keeping the Thomasville offense on the field and Miller in the Demopolis secondary.

“That’s crucial. It’s the main thing,” says Hankins. “But their defense is so good. They’re faster even than they were last year.”

Leading the Thomasville offensive charge will be workhorse senior fullback Shamus Hudson, who has carried 45 times for more than 300 yards combined in the Tigers’ two playoff victories. Dexter Law does double duty as tailback and one of junior quarterback Jake Overstreet’s favorite receivers.

Between Hudson and Law, Thomasville relies primarily on their running game to power out yards and first downs. Hudson was able to break free for a few long runs against Demopolis in the teams’ August jamboree game as the teams played to a 14-13 score through three quarters. But Hankins says that between Miller’s development and the defensive improvement, that scrimmage will bear few similarities to Friday’s showdown.

“That’s been a season ago,” he says.

Thomasville comes into the game off of their thrilling win over Cleburne, and Hankins says if the Tigers can gain confidence in their ability to pull out a close game, the win could give them some momentum coming into the Demopolis game.

“I hope it does. We need all the help we can get. But it does help you feel good about your team. We’ll need the momentum if we’re going to beat Demopolis,” he says.

What he says his team doesn’t need is the extra motivation from the Demopolis-Thomasville multiple-sport rivalry. Just the opportunity to advance deeper into the playoffs and survive another week is motivation enough, he says.

“We’re just glad to be in the quarterfinals,” he says. “We’ve had a good week of practice … We’re going to enjoy the experience and make the most of it.”