Tigers look for more of same vs. Thomasville

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 18, 2005

With the exception of Hoover’s cameo on ESPN and the Super 6, instant replay isn’t a part of Alabama high school football. But after his team’s 42-7 win over 10-1 Rehobeth last week, Doug Goodwin would be more than happy to see a kind of instant replay Friday night as Demopolis goes on the road to 10th-ranked Thomasville.

“We played very well. As long as we play that way, we’ll have a chance to beat anybody we play,” Goodwin says. “Whether or not we’ll continue to play at that level is yet to be determined. Our goal as always is to improve and play a little better than we did last week.”

At stake for the two rival sets of Tigers is a berth in the state Class 4A semifinals, possibly against the state’s top-ranked team, UMS-Wright. Demopolis advanced to the quarterfinals by defeating Handley 48-7 in the first round before dispatching Rehobeth. Thomasville had a rockier road, defeating Trinity 28-7 at home before taking down undefeated Cleburne County in overtime, 28-27.

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The meeting will be, in a sense, the fourth between the two teams in the space of two seasons. Demopolis and Thomasville played a preseason jamboree game in both 2004 and 2005 and met in the second round of the 2004 playoffs, a game Demopolis won 14-0 on their way to the state title.

Goodwin says he was not especially concerned about which team his Tigers faced this week, but that if he had to pick, his staff’s experience preparing for Thomasville is a minor plus.

“I’m just happy we’ll still be playing, happy we’re in the quarterfinals,” Goodwin says. “Everybody you play at this point is going to be good. I’d just assume play someone we’re familiar with.”

Even after the jamboree to kick off the 2005 season, it would be a stretch to say Demopolis supporters at that scrimmage would be that familiar with the Thomasville they’ll see Friday night. Goodwin says very little, if anything, learned from Demopolis’s 14-13 lead through three quarters (when the teams switched to JV players) will still be applicable at this stage of the season.

“It doesn’t matter much,” he says. “I know we’ve improved dramatically and I feel pretty sure they have, too … If we hadn’t improved we wouldn’t still be playing.”

One notable area of improvement is along the Demopolis defensive front. Thomasville had success running the ball in the jamboree, especially with bruising fullback Shamus Hudson. But the Demopolis front seven–linemen Justin Jackson, Perry Little, and Stephen Cupit and linebackers Ezell Braxton, Jacob Smelley, Tyler Moody, and Brad Braxton–has since tightened the running lanes considerably, allowing only 1.9 yards per rush on the season. Rehobeth entered their game with Demopolis as one of the state’s top running teams and averaged only 3.5 yards per attempt.

“At the jamboree, we only had two kids starting who had started on defense before. Now they’ve got 12 games under their belt,” Goodwin says. “They’re much more experienced and that will correlate to being better against the run.”

On offense, Demopolis will have to deal with the loss of starting senior receiver Dwiuan White, out with injury, whose role will be filled “probably by committee” according to Goodwin. The Tigers didn’t miss too many beats after White left the Rehobeth game in the first quarter, but against a Thomasville defense Goodwin says has an abundance of “quickness,” Demopolis will have to be on top of their game up front.

“We’ve got to block. Really, that’s it,” Goodwin says. “We’ve got to protect the quarterback.”

One minor factor that may work in the Demopolis O’s favor is that they’ve seen a defensive strategy very like Thomasville’s every week … in practice. Goodwin explains that since a visit by the Thomasville coaching staff to DHS a few years ago, Thomasville has since adopted more and more elements of the same scheme used by Freddy Lawrence’s Demopolis defense. With the defensive look on the other side of the ball looking so familiar, it could be a boost for the Tiger offense–not that Demopolis was going to see anything it hadn’t seen several times before already.

“Their defensive scheme is very similar to ours. It ought to help you offensively with what you’re trying to do. It doesn’t hurt you any,” Goodwin says. “We have so many tapes of each other anyway. When you get to this point of the season, the teams are well-coached and they’re going to do what they did to get there. There aren’t going to be any surprises.”

Another element that won’t surprise or faze his team, Goodwin says, will be the Thomasville crowd. Though it promises to be the loudest and largest opposition crowd Demopolis will have played in front of this season, in the end the road trip may actually benefit the visiting Tigers.

“We’ll have as many or more people there than Thomasville. Our fans are very vocal, especially during playoff time last year. They’ll all be cheering, sitting behind us the way they would at home, so it should even itself out,” Goodwin says. “Really, for the players it can be more exciting to go on the road. When our fans come with us on the road and are vocal and do their part, our players feed off that. Our fans do a great job. They followed us last year to Trinity, to UMS, and Birmingham and I’ll sure they’ll do the same this year.”

Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. in Thomasville.