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Demopolis doubles up Shelby County

COLUMBIANA — Demopolis (8-4) outlasted No. 3 ranked Shelby County (11-1) 28-14 Friday night in the second round of the AHSAA, Class 5A state playoffs.

“You won that football game tonight because of character,” DHS head coach Tom Causey told his team following the win.

The Tigers knew they were in for a fight when the Wildcat defense stiffened at midfield, forcing Demopolis to punt after five plays. The teams traded possessions until senior quarterback Rick Boone found junior Anthony Hardy despite being under duress. Hardy took the ball down the sideline with the aid of a DaMarcus James block that sprung him free for 77 yards and a touchdown. The extra point of Tyler Brooker put the Tigers up 7-0.

The game remained there until Shelby County’s Tae Lewis hauled in a 24-yard touchdown pass late in the second quarter to cut the game to 7-6.

Shelby picked up one more possession in the second quarter, but had it halted by a Larry Cobb interception that set up a 44-yard field goal attempt by Alan Brooker that fell just short.

The Tigers held Shelby County to 83 yards of total offense on 28 plays in the first half, limiting the vaunted Wildcat rushing attack to 36 yards on 19 carries. Conversely, Demopolis mustered only 57 yards on the ground on its 18 carries.

“Our defense did exactly what we asked them to do and tried to slow their running game down,” Causey said.

Demopolis’ leading rusher, James, managed 35 yards on five carries in the first quarter before being held to no yards in the game’s second frame.

Causey credited Shelby County for a solid defensive game plan that forced the Tigers to rethink their attack in the second half.

After Shelby County’s opening drive of the second half stalled, Demopolis took over at its own 19. Two plays into the possession, the Tigers coughed the ball up at its own 20.

On first down, senior safety Brian Taylor tipped and then caught a Wildcat heave. A key block from Tre Jones and 95 yards later, Taylor put the Tigers up 13-6. The point after again connected to leave Demopolis with the eight-point lead.

“I was just reading my keys. That’s all,” Taylor said of the interception. “When I cut backfield and heard that lick, I knew it was over with.”

Demopolis then forced a three-and-out from the Wildcats before marching 68 yards on seven plays to stretch the lead on an 11-yard touchdown run by senior Jacob Kerby.

“That’s our goal line package,” Causey said of the offensive adjustment his team made at halftime. “We had to put a body on a body because they were blitzing so much.”

With the pressure on, Shelby County responded by going 80 yards on 11 plays. The drive culminated with a 42-yard touchdown run by Darion Sutton. Wes made an athletic catch on the ensuing two-point conversion attempt to cut the lead to 21-14.

With the momentum in danger of shifting and clinging to a one-touchdown lead, Demopolis offered the Wildcats a steady diet of James and Kerby, who alternated throughout the possession to cover 56 yards on nine plays. The drive ended with a five-yard touchdown dash to put Demopolis up 28-14.

“It’s the same way they’ve responded all year long to adversity,” Causey said of his team. “I’ll take those guys anywhere, any time like that.”

Shelby’s final comeback threat was neutralized when Jones again stepped up in a key spot, picking off a pass to seal the Demopolis victory.

Heading into the game, Jones and his fellow defensive linemen felt they had been challenged directly by the Wildcat offensive front.

“Whenever anybody disrespects us like that, we take it on with class. We don’t talk back,” Jones said.

“I think what happened tonight was we called on our defense to win it,” Causey said of his team’s defensive effort.

Offensively, the Tigers were lead by James, who put together 91 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries. Kerby added 40 yards and a touchdown on 10 second-half carries.

The Tigers advance to round three of the 5A playoffs next week when they will travel to Montgomery to face Region 3 champion Carver, who bested Briarwood Christian 21-13 Friday night.