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Hillcrest handles Demopolis at home, 41-28

A fumble on Demopolis’ first offensive possession set the stage for what was a tough, non-region 41-28 loss to 6A Hillcrest (4-1) Friday night.

On their opening possession, and facing a third and long, the Tigers (1-4, 1-1) fumbled the ball away on their own 10. The defensive unit held strong giving up only nine yards on four plays and forcing a turnover on downs.

Hillcrest wouldn’t squander their next opportunity and took their next offensive possession to the end zone to take an early 7-0 lead.

Demopolis finally answered nine minutes into the second quarter to knot the game 7-all on an 18-yard pitch and catch from Rick Boone to Anthony Hardy.

Three minutes later Hillcrest and junior quarterback Jared Pratt took the lead back on an 11-yard touchdown run.

“We got beat,” DHS head coach Tom Causey said. “We didn’t play with a whole lot of energy and enthusiasm in the first half.”

Despite the seven-point difference on the scoreboard, Hillcrest and Demopolis took remarkably similar statistics into the locker room. The Tigers rolled up 97 yards rushing in the first 24 minutes compared to Hillcrest’s 98. In the air, Hillcrest’s Pratt tossed for 54 yards compared to Boone’s 34.

Hillcrest blew out of the locker room and marched for the end zone, taking the opening kickoff of the second half 60 yards in six plays to take a 21-7 lead early in the third.

On their next offensive series Demopolis’ DaMarcus James rambled untouched for 20 yards to cap a four-play, 70-yard drive. The extra point failed and the Tigers were back within striking distance, 21-13.

On the Patriots’ next possession the Demopolis defense snatched momentum back, with Carl Johnson pouncing on a Hillcrest fumble. The offense took the gift 37 yards in five plays for a quick six thanks to a 2-yard touchdown sprint by Boone. Still down 19-21, the Tigers elected to go for two and Boone found Fred Irby in the end zone to tie the game at 21.

With Demopolis showing signs of life, Hillcrest exploded for 13 points in 20 seconds thanks in part to a Demopolis turnover early in the fourth and took a 34-21 lead.

With eight minutes left in the fourth, the Tigers answered with a quick seven of their own with a 70 yard, three-play drive that ended with Jacob Kerby face down in the end zone after bulldozing through the Patriot defensive line.

“At times we played like football players,” Causey said.

Down by six, 34-28, the Demopolis defense came up with a stop on fourth-and-inches on the Hillcrest 37-yard line.

The Tigers went four and out to give the ball back on the Hillcrest 31 with less than six minutes left to play.

The Patriots pushed into Demopolis territory, moving the chains and eating up the clock. With just more than two minutes left, senior running back Ellis Hill trotted 16 yards for the 41-28 lead.

On the first play of the next series Boone threw a homerun ball to Brian Taylor that fell incomplete but a pass interference call on the defense put the Tigers on the Hillcrest 45.

Two plays later the Patriots took an interception 33 yards in the other direction to assure the Tigers their fourth loss of the year.

James led the Tigers in rushing and total offense with 167 yards on 23 carries.

“We’ve got to keep working. We didn’t play well fundamentally,” Causey said. “We’ve got get back on the practice field and work.”