Demopolis derailed

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 21, 2005

THOMASVILLE–The streak is over.

Demopolis’s dreams of a second straight state title were dashed by Thomasville Friday night, 17-14. The loss was the Tigers’ first in 27 games, going back to the 2003 4A semifinals.

Demopolis fell behind 17-0 early in the second half before a valiant rally cut the lead to three. But facing fourth-and-six on the Thomasville 46 with less than 1:30 remaining on the clock, Dontrell Miller’s short pass to Jacob Smelley was only good for four yards and Thomasville took over on downs. The homestanding Tigers got one first down on a Jake Overstreet scramble before kneeling and watching the clock run out on a huge victory.

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“We missed too many opportunities and turned the ball over too many times” said Demopolis head coach Doug Goodwin. “If you’ve got two good teams, whoever turns the ball over more will probably lose, and that’s what happened.”

The loss ends Demopolis’s season with a 12-1 record. This season is the first since 2001 that Demopolis did not advance at least as far as the state semifinals.

Thomasville will move on to face UMS-Wright next Friday. After the game Thomasville head coach Jack Hankins praised his team for standing tall when it looked like Demopolis had the momentum.

“They played with great effort, with great heart,” he said. “It would have been easy to quit there in the second half.”

Thomasville appeared to be in complete control of the game in the early stages of the third quarter. On third-and-two from the Thomasville 34, fullback Shamus Hudson got lost behind the line before bouncing outside and racing 66 yards to the end zone. Victor Jernberg added the extra point and with 8:50 remaining in the third quarter Thomasville had a commanding 17-0 lead.

But Demopolis responded in rapid fashion, cutting the lead to 10 barely more than two minutes later. With the Tigers starting on their own 22, Rock Jones carried for 26 yards, Miller escaped for 20, and Smelley turned a short pass into a long gain that took the ball to the Thomasville 5. After a penalty moved the ball back to the 10, Miller carried up the middle for Demopolis’s first score. Justin Davis’s extra point was good and the Tigers trailed 17-7 with 6:46 left in the quarter.

The Demopolis defense, after struggling with the Thomasville running game throughout the first half, forced their first three-and-out on the home team’s next possession and forced two more on each of Thomasville’s next two possessions as well. The last ended with an Ezell Braxton sack of Overstreet that brought the large Demopolis crowd to its feet.

Unfortunately, the Demopolis offense failed to capitalize. A Miller pass intended for Rob Quinney was intercepted by James white on one possession, another drive stalled on the Thomasville 47 after a sack of Miller, and when Miller’s fourth-and-19 pass for Jones was intercepted with less than eight minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, the game looked to be in Thomasville’s hands.

But with 6:47 left in the game the energized Demopolis defense made a huge play, stripping Hudson on a dive into the middle of the line and coming away with the fumble recovery on the Demopolis 40. This time the Tigers took full advantage, Miller running right off the quarterback draw and outrunning the Thomasville secondary down the sideline for a 45-yard touchdown. Davis was good again and with 5:37 Demopolis had pulled within three.

A short kickoff gave Thomasville excellent field position at their own 48, but Hankins’s team could not ice the game as Roya Campbell was stuffed on third-and four by a host of Tigers. Thomasville punted and Demopolis got their last shot starting at their own 22 with 3:21 left.

Miller was tackled for a loss of three on first down, but hit Giorgio Griffin on second down for a gain of 11. Jones carried to the 40 for a first down and on the following play Miller carried to the 50 for another. But passes on first and second down were incomplete, the second just tipping off the hands of Jones, and Miller was stopped for a gain of four on third. On fourth down with the season on the line, Smelley was stopped just shy and the Thomasville players were able to start celebrating.

“Demopolis has a great team,” Hankins said. “They made some great adjustments in the second half. We’re just thankful we were able to hang with them. Our guys just believed we could win.”

Goodwin was happy with his team’s effort inthe second half but said his team finally just made too many mistakes.

“The whole team played better in the second half. We got after them a little bit better on defense and executed better on offense,” he said. “But we turned the ball over too many times.”

There was very little for the traveling Demopolis fans to cheer in the first half. Thomasville drove 54 yards for a Jernberg field goal on the game’s opening possession and kept Demopolis scoreless even after a Willie Gracey interception set the Tigers up in great field position at the Thomasville 44.

Thomasville’s next possession occupied almost the entire second quarter as the Tigers embarked on a 19-play drive that took 10:42 off the clock. The drive included four fourth-down conversions, including Hudson’s dive over the top on fourth-and-goal from the 1. The half finished with Thomasville ahead 10-0 and each team having had only three possessions apiece.

The loss ends the careers of 15 Demopolis seniors, who leave with a state title under their belts and a 53-3 career record. Goodwin had nothing but praise for his team’s year-long effort after the game.

“We had a good season,” he said.