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Tigers hit classroom, then field

DEMOPOLIS — It was the first day of school and the last day without pads Wednesday for the Tigers as they took part in what could only be considered their first practice of the fall. Demopolis hit the field at 3:45 p.m., a mere 23 days and approximately two hours before they will begin the season at Wetumpka for the 2008 season opener.

“You could feel it in school. It’s just like an energy,” senior center Morgan Lecroy said. “Everybody knows it’s football time.”

While the city’s ambiance is certainly permeated with gridiron undertones, Tiger players and coaches know there remains a great deal of work to be done before the Aug. 29 kickoff.

“For us to be competitive early, we’ve got to accelerate our execution,” head coach Tom Causey said. “We’ve got to get better at every position every day.”

According to Causey, the Tigers opened Wednesday’s three-hour practice session strong.

“Defensively it was really good. They put some new blitzes in,” the second-year Tiger head man said. “Offensively it was good early and they kind of fizzled toward the end.”

Causey attributed the Demopolis decline to a handful of factors, including players’ adjustments to the schedule that accompanies the start of school. However, he also reported believing his players have hit a wall in a sense and are ready to move to the next phase of preparation.

“It’s time to put the pads on,” Causey said. The team will do just that today when it returns to the practice field.

The biggest difference between this season’s Tigers and the team that fell to Vigor in the playoffs to close 2007 is the familiarity it now has with Causey’s system.

“It’s installation,” Causey said of the schemes the coaching staff has been able to implement over the off-season. “We’re so far ahead of what we had then. Basically our offense is in. We’ve got a handful of our defense in.”

In addition to the comfort they now have with their coaching staff and system, the Tigers also figure to reap the rewards of a full season in Causey’s weight training and conditioning program.

“It’s helped us a whole lot more because we’re actually in shape this year,” Lecroy said of the off-field work the Tigers have done. “We’re actually trying to come out here going full speed and getting after it.”

“We’re more ready than anytime ever,” Lecroy said of a team he feels is further along at this juncture of preseason work than any other in which he has taken part. “I want to end up in Birmingham this year holding a gold trophy above my head. If we don’t make it there, my senior year wasn’t a success.”

The Tigers, who appeared at the top of the “others receiving votes” category for 5A when the Alabama Sports Writers Association’s first rankings were released earlier this week, appear confident they possess the talent and scheme necessary to make a legitimate run at the Super Six. According to Lecroy, there exists one primary obstacle between the team and its stated goal.

“The only thing that’s holding us back is becoming one unit working together,” Lecroy said. “It’s got to be five on the line, and 11 every play, going hard.”