Laying the groundwork

Published 11:51 pm Saturday, September 6, 2008

The night after their older counterparts ripped through Chilton County in the home opener, the next generation of Demopolis Tigers took to the Memorial Stadium field for the launch of the inaugural season of the new-look Demopolis youth football.

The teams from each of the three age divisions hosted Hillcrest for the league’s opening day of competition, dropping two of the three games in what league president Mark McVay considered a successful start to the program.

“I feel like it went real well. We had a good turnout,” McVay said. “We even ran out of stuff in the concession stand.”

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The program, which was suggested by DHS head football coach Tom Causey, is designed to strengthen all levels of Demopolis football by allowing players to become familiar with a system and their teammates at an early age.

“We wanted this to represent what they’re going to see in high school,” Joe Tidmore, head coach of the 11 and 12-year-old Demopolis team, said of the intent behind the program. “(Causey wants these guys to get used to beating Hillcrest and all the guys we play against.”

Saturday’s action kicked off at 9 a.m. when the 7 and 8-year-old team from Demopolis pushed its first game to the final possession before falling to Hillcrest 12-6. In that contest, Hillcrest amassed the majority of its yardage and all its points during the first half of play. On the opening possession of the third quarter, Demopolis running back Javian Smith bounced the ball outside, breaking a 55-yard touchdown run to put the Tigers on the board.

“He did a great job of making the adjustment,” Tony Pittman, who was filling in for the team’s regular head coach Patrick Akins, said of Smith’s decision to take the ball to the edge against a defense that had consistently applied pressure up the middle.

Demopolis got the ball back in its own territory with less than two minutes remaining in the contest and opportunity to tie. However, the clock ran out before the Tigers could rediscover their offensive rhythm.

“Most of the kids, it’s their first time playing,” Pittman said of a group he felt performed well in its debut.

The 9 and 10-year-olds clashed in the second game of the day. Hillcrest posted the 21-0 victory in a contest in which its offensive and defensive lines possessed a considerable size advantage over the home team.

“We got more aggressive as the game went on,” McVay, the head coach for the 9 and 10-year-old Tigers, said. “We’ll just work on building their confidence and getting them more aggressive.”

McVay’s team struggled to find its rhythm offensively throughout the game, but stiffened on defense in the second half while allowing the Patriots only one score following the intermission. The Tigers’ defensive effort was headlined by a high-motored Logan McVay who brought his teammates to life when he dropped a big hit on a Patriot running back on what threatened to be a big play for Hillcrest.

The finale of the day saw Demopolis prevent the sweep when the 11 and 12-year-old Tigers blasted the Hillcrest 27-0.

Demopolis established its running game early and often against the Patriots, taking the ball 67 yards on nine plays before ending the contest’s opening drive with a Demetrius Kemp touchdown run.

“Demetrius is going to be our power runner,” Tidmore said of Kemp before turning his attention to the Tigers’ change-of-pace back. “Sanders is kind of our quick guy.”

Sanders carried the ball three times for 25 yards and connected on a conversion attempt while Kemp proved the team’s stalwart. He managed 135 yards and three touchdowns on 17 carries to lead the Tiger attack.

Demopolis also received significant contributions from quarterback Josh Mangum, who toted the rock six times for 56 yards on the afternoon. Cal Logan broke an 18-yard touchdown run on his only carry. He also scored on a conversion run after one of Kemp’s touchdowns. Cameron Palmer closed out the game in the backfield, tallying 36 yards on five touches.

Demopolis gave the ball to seven different players in the game on its way to totaling 249 yards on 34 plays. Conversely, the Tigers defense allowed the Patriots only 31 yards on 27 plays.

“We’ve got a real good group of kids at this age,” Tidmore said. After the game, Tidmore spoke of the coaching staff’s focus on fielding a competitive team while adequately distributing playing time and finding success at installing Causey’s system.

“We want these kids to know that they are winners,” he said of the primary focus. “And that doesn’t necessarily mean a ‘W’ in the win column.”