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Wetumpka spoils DHS season opener

WETUMPKA – The game came down to the final possession Friday night before Indian safety Landon Jones picked off Rick Boone’s desperation lob with just over a minute to go, sealing the 12-7 loss for Demopolis.

The interception, Boone’s only one of the night, came on a fourth down heave in which the senior quarterback was attempting to avoid a sack.

The end proved fitting for a game that was dictated largely by defensive plays. Demopolis opened the night with a 26-yard pass to senior Brian Taylor on the first play from scrimmage. Taylor made a cut to the inside of the field before a pair of Wetumpka tacklers managed to pop the ball loose, giving the Indians the early possession at their own 33.

“We did start out early with some mistakes, so did Wetumpka. And it kept us in the game,” DHS head coach Tom Causey said.

A suffocating Demopolis defense snuffed three consecutive Indian attempts to establish a running game on their first possession, forcing Wetumpka back four yards over that span. The possession was indicative of the Tigers’ run defense all night as Wetumpka managed only 30 yards on 27 carries.

“Our entire defense played lights out all night long,” Causey said of a unit that kept Wetumpka out of the end zone during the first half and surrendered only 112 yards and four first downs on the night.

When the Tigers took possession of the ball late in the second at their own 17-yard line, senior Jacob Kerby rattled off 27 yards on the first three carries of the possession.

Two plays later, senior Shelby Speegle chewed up 16 yards on a run. Kerby later picked up 21 more yards on a carry before Boone found Speegle on a 14-yard pass over the middle for a touchdown. Tyler Brooker followed with the point after to break the deadlock before halftime.

“He did exactly what Jacob Kerby always does,” Causey said of his fullback, who anchored the 13-play, 83-yard scoring drive.

“I just knew I had to step up and fill in for ( injured sophomore fullback DaMarcus James) and keep on working hard to get better everyday,” Kerby said of his move to the top of the depth chart a few weeks ago. The senior stalwart had 93 of Demopolis’ 165 total rushing yards Friday night.

The Tigers maintained the 7-0 lead until early in the third quarter. After being turned away on their first three offensive plays, Wetumpka faked a punt attempt near mid-field, snapping the ball to the up-back and converting the first down. Two plays later, sophomore quarterback Jamal Golden connected on a swing pass that went for 40 yards and a touchdown. Wetumpka’s attempt to go for two was negated after a holding penalty, resulting in a missed extra-point attempt on the next play. That left Demopolis with the 7-6 lead.

The game remained that way until late in the fourth quarter when a muffed Tiger punt return attempt found its way into Wetumpka hands, setting the Indians up for a potential go-ahead scoring drive.

The drive was stalled when freshman Deonte Washington picked off a Golden pass at the Demopolis 10-yard line.

The ensuing Demopolis drive ended on the wrong side of the 50 with a fumble, handing the ball to Wetumpka at the Tiger 30 with 5:23 remaining on the clock.

“In the second half, we never did get any rhythm,” Causey said of an offense that struggled with penalties while sputtering after intermission. The Tigers were penalized 14 times for 73 yards in the game.

Following the fumble, the Tiger defense answered the call one more time, forcing a four-and-out from Wetumpka with 4:22 left on the game clock.

The Tigers then proceeded to milk the clock, running three plays before sending the punt team onto the field. Wetumpka blocked the kick, picking up the ball and advancing it to the six-yard line before Kerby stopped the return attempt.

“We’ve got to work on special teams,” Kerby said following the loss. “If we correct those (mistakes), we win the ball game.”

On the first play of the drive, Golden kept the ball on a run up the middle for the touchdown, handing Wetumpka its first lead of the game. Jackson broke through the protection on the PAT attempt, blocking the effort and keeping the deficit at 12-7.

Despite taking over at their own 48 following a kickoff that sailed out of bounds, Demopolis was unable to take advantage of the final two minutes of the game. A pass interference call against Wetumpka on a deep pass intended for Taylor advanced the ball to the Wetumpka 37 before the drive stalled, ending with the Jones interception.

“I’m proud of our players. They did exactly what we asked them to do and laid themselves on the line tonight,” Causey said.

After the game, Causey addressed a downtrodden Tiger team.

“This 12-7 loss will come back in your favor somewhere down the road if you stay together,” he told his players.

“It’s amazing how much we’ve grown,” an emotional Taylor managed to choke out following the team meeting.

“I tell them ‘Look how we played,’” the senior said of his role in providing emotional leadership and encouragement to his team as it moves into 5A competition next week.

“We’re coming together great. It show us that we’re a team to be reckoned with in 5A,” Kerby said of the Tiger effort.

According to Causey, the Tigers, who will face region foe Chilton County next week, will continue to look for strong performances from its defense throughout the season. Senior linebacker Greg Irvin recorded 9.5 tackles and deflected a pass Friday night while Jackson ended the evening with 6 tackles, three sacks, a forced fumble and a blocked extra point attempt.

“Without them I wouldn’t be nothing. They’re my brothers. I love them,” Jackson said of his fellow defensive linemen who managed to consume blocks all night long, freeing up himself and Irvin to continually make big plays when needed.