Teams kick off seasons dreams

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 31, 2007

Week 1 (AHSAA) / Week 2 (AISA) is upon us. Tonight is the night for teams to start making the dreams that started last November come true.

The opening game is always huge if for no other reason than it is the season opener. Of course next week is equally big as it is the opening game of conference (region) play. But let&8217;s not get ahead of ourselves here.

All games will begin at 7 p.m. to allow for the avoidance of late hour travel for the visitors. I also suspect that coverage on the 10 p.m. TV sports segments could be an influencing factor somewhere in that equation.

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Let&8217;s jump right into our games for tonight shall we:

Demopolis at Sumter County

This has been the season opener since 1992 for both teams. The Tigers may be guilty of tax evasion. The record would indicate Demopolis should have been paying property tax for the last couple of years, as they have owned the Wildcats. SCHS won in 1993 and 1994 and hung tough in most of the games they lost in the 90s, but with Doug Goodwin&8217;s arrival in 1999 the scores have mostly been lopsided in favor of the &8216;Royal Blue&8217; Bengals. As a matter of fact, one would have to go back to 2003 to find the last time Sumco scored on Demop (65-14).

This is really surprising because Sumter County will always show up with some outstanding athletes. The Wildcats currently have two alums playing D-1 football (WR Marko Mitchell &8212; Nevada Wolf Pack and DL Cordarro Law &8212; Southern Miss Golden Eagles).

The 2006 game was a, 42-0, DHS win but was closer than the score indicates. Demopolis led, 14-0, at the half but five SCHS fumbles and a punting average of 6 yards per kick proved to be obstacles they were unable to overcome. Couple this with a 3/12 passing performance that netted seven yards and you begin to get the picture.

Coach Stacy Watters got the Wildcats settled down the stretch, as they finished 6-4 on the year. This output was good enough to qualify as the No. 4 seed from 3A Region 1 and a playoff spot against Aliceville.

DHS will have their hands full, as SCHS will return 18 starters from last year. A new coaching staff for DHS may result in some early growing pains, as players and coaches work to get in sync with each other. The other side of the coin is the element of surprise is in favor of Demopolis.

The Tigers should benefit from Coach Causey&8217;s work detail in the weight room. Plus, based on observations from last weeks scrimmage against Thomasville, the Bengalis should have an edge in conditioning.

Sumter will be tough and athletic. Demopolis must make the special team play work in their favor. They must put these guys away early. To allow them to hang around and keep it close into the fourth quarter could result in early season heartbreak.

John Essex at Marengo High

Last year was a bummer for the JEHS Hornets.

1-8 was a dramatic departure from what they had come to expect in recent years.

Marengo started the ball rolling in the wrong direction as they swatted the Hornets, 20-8, at Saltwell in the 2006 opener. The MHS Panthers went on to record a 5-5 record that qualified them for post-season play.

Numbers and depth are luxuries that most 1A schools do not enjoy. John Essex may have to loosely adopt the U.S. Marine Corp moniker &8220;the few, the proud&8230; The Hornets.&8221;

Livingston at Linden

The Andro Williams era begins tonight. Williams begins his first coaching assignment as the Patriots head man after a number of years at Sweet Water as the defensive coordinator.

Linden and the returning personnel should not be total strangers as Linden and Sweet Water were both 1A Region 4 foes.

Linden in 2006 was something of an enigma. The Patriots opened the season with a 32-0 skunking of 4A Livingston (in Livingston); then lost a 16-8 region game to Sunshine in Week 2. Week 3 saw them wearing out the scoreboard, with an 86-30 bombarding of hapless Akron. The following week they are whitewashed by Sweet Water 56-0.

The loss to Sunshine was particularly tough as that essentially kept them out of the playoffs.

The Patriots&8217; roster includes one Sean Richardson as a wideout. The Birmingham News lists Richardson as one of their seniors to watch. Linden will always come up with some guys that can play football. That could be a problem for Livingston with their primary claim to fame being a rich basketball tradition.

Marengo Academy at Sparta Academy

Marengo lost a heartbreaker to Pickens, 15-14.

Sparta spanked EMCA&8217;s heinie, 39-0.

Do those two facts automatically mean the Longhorns should not waste the gas to Evergreen and just stay home tonight?

Not on your life unless you&8217;re a Senator from Idaho who may be losing his airport bathroom privileges&8230; Oh wait, that&8217;s a totally different story.

Last year Marengo got stomped by Pickens, 47-13, and they came back to knock off Sparta, 27-20, the following week. I truly believe DHS Tom Causey&8217;s statement is correct when applied to a situation like this: &8220;there&8217;s no shame to getting beat but losing is a different matter.&8221;

The question is a matter of pride and desire.

Do the &8216;Horns want it bad enough to put that ever so close but bitter loss behind them and take it to Sparta.

If I was a betting man, I&8217;d wager a dollar to a pack of Conecuh sausages they will.

Remember Demopolis opens on the road at Sumter County, so make the trip and wear blue. (Note: game will be broadcast on 104.9 FM and streamed over starting at 6:30 p.m.).

Until next time, play hard; play for fun; play to win.

Mike Grayson is contributing columnist to the Times.