Tigers romp in preseason exhibition
It started with a hit by transfer sophomore cornerback Rusty Palmer on an unsuspecting Wilcox Central ball carrier, and all of a sudden, the Tigers were off and running to a 28-0 victory in the first of their two Jamboree games Friday night. The dispatching of the regional rival left Demopolis only a River City Blues halftime show away from hosting Linden in The Battle of 43, a game it went on to win 20-0.
Much like its predecessor, the Tigers’ second game opened with a memorable hit. This time, it was senior Greg Irvin who meted out the punishment, jarring the ball loose on the opening kickoff and robbing a spirited Patriot team of its momentum.
Demopolis recovered the loose ball, setting up a four-play drive that covered 30 yards and resulted in an Anthony Hardy touchdown run. Tyler Brooker added the point after to hand the Tigers the 7-0 lead.
Linden then fielded the ensuing kickoff, putting together a three-play drive that gained two yards before Maurice Tate punted the ball away.
The second Demopolis possession saw an eight-yard connection from quarterback Rick Boone to wideout Larry Cobb. Two plays later, Boone toted the ball for eight yards, but failed to pick up enough yardage to make up for the holding penalty on the previous play.
Linden took back over after the Jacob Kerby punt. The drive ended quickly as a Brian Taylor hit on former Tiger Shantrell Braxton jarred the ball loose.
Irvin recovered the stray ball to set up a drive that covered 53 yards in eight plays and reached paydirt when Taylor hauled in a Boone pass of 32 yards.
“I knew I had one-on-one coverage,” Boone said of the play. “Brian matched up with anybody on the outside; I’ll take Brian any day.”
Brooker’s point after pushed the lead to 14-0.
“I felt like it was good,” Boone said of the communication with his receivers. “We’ve still got a few things to work on. I feel like I’ve got the best receivers in the state of Alabama. It takes a lot of pressure off me. If I get the ball there, they’re going to go and get it.”
Two plays later, Carl Johnson brought the heat, forcing another Patriot fumble. This time Tremaine Sanders came up with the loose ball, handing control back to the Tiger offense. Boone led the team 42 yards on five plays on a drive that ended in a 10-yard touchdown run by Kerby. The failed point after left the lead at 20-0.
Kerby and Hardy primarily carried the load out of the backfield as the Tigers were without regular ball carrier DaMarcus James, who will figure heavily into the Demopolis rotation.
“I was confident in them,” Boone said of his backs. “I knew that (running backs coach Joey) Browder coached them up right and they were going to do what they had to do.”
“He’s worked really hard all summer and steadily improved,” Browder said of Hardy before turning his attention to Kerby. “Jacob has stepped up to the challenge. We made it clear a few weeks ago he’s the No. 1 fullback and he needed to start acting like the No. 1 fullback.”
Kerby rushed for a total of 58 yards and two scores from the fullback slot while Hardy carried the rock for 42 yards and two touchdowns. He also pulled in three passes for 57 yards and a touchdown.
“I thought all of our backs did extremely well tonight,” head coach Tom Causey said. “Anthony had a really good night catching and blocking.”
The Tiger offensive effort also exhibited an efficient performance from Boone, who combined to go 10-for-14 through the air for 163 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for 73 yards on the night.
“He’s done a better job of understanding his coverage and knowing where we want him to go with the ball before the snap,” Causey said of his quarterback. Despite his strong performance, Boone admitted there were still aspects of his game he needed to improve.
“I’ve got to get focused on my read man because I trust my offensive line is going to do what they’re supposed to do,” he said of his tendency to focus on impending blitzes.
While the Tigers managed 48 points in the event, it was the defense that fueled the squad. The intense Tiger front recorded three sacks and forced three fumbles.
“Hands down, we’ve got the best defensive line in the state,” Taylor said. “I don’t care who we play against. We’re going to beat them up front.”
Junior Martaze Jackson recorded two sacks and forced a fumble while Johnson freed the ball from the grip of an opposing ball carrier twice. Sanders notched a sack to go along with his fumble recovery. Taylor, Irvin and Kerby also forced fumbles while Michael Davis came up with one loose ball.
After the contest, Causey was pleased with his defensive line’s effort but emphasized the need for the group to improve.
“At some point, we will run into match-up problems with them,” Causey said of his front four. “Those guys at the front play with a lot of intensity. But they’ve got to keep getting better.”
The Tigers open the regular season on the road Friday when they visit 6A squad Wetumpka.