From the Sidelines: DHS Tigers must overcome own emotions

Published 10:05 pm Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The events that unfolded the night of Nov. 21, 2008 represented at once the best and worst things I have ever seen in sports. On the one hand, I witnessed Demopolis stage a dramatic second half comeback against Carver.

In two quarters of play, the Tigers effectively exorcised their own demons, stepped beyond their own obstacles and put together their most complete performance of the season. After waffling through their first meeting with the Wolverines earlier in the year, the Tigers looked much like the same unprepared team in the first half of their third-round playoff meeting. But the second half was different. The team that emerged from the locker room in the third quarter was ready for what it faced. It was ready to move the ball up and down the field, limit Carver’s high-powered offense and take the Wolverines completely out of their element.

That team in the second half, did just that. That team caused Carver to lose its cool. That team was one of the best teams to step onto an Alabama High School field in 2008. In one half of play, the Tigers became everything their coaches and fans thought they could be.

And it seemed, which Rick Boone found Michael Davis in the end zone for the go-ahead two-point conversion play with 1:36 to go, that Demopolis was a team of destiny. Their path to the Super 6 seemed to have been laid and their eventual clash with former head coach Doug Goodwin and Russellville seemed an imminent possibility. It would have been the story of the season. They started the year 1-4 and seemed a lock pick up their eighth straight win.

But Carver never rolled over. The Wolverines played Apollo Creed to the Tigers’ Rocky Balboa with unwavering commitment. And just like the scripted photo finish ending that culminated the epic cinematic fight, Carver and Demopolis came down to the final play. Only this time, a field goal attempt with 2.2 seconds to go would take the place of simultaneous knockout blows.

The entire stadium held its collective breath as the kick went up and sailed wide. The game was over. The Carver players looked on is disbelief as the Tigers and their coaches ran onto the field. There was cheering, celebrating and supreme joy. Then there wasn’t. In a moment’s time, all of that positive emotion was replaced by confusion, frustration and quiet desperation.

There was a flag on the field. Both teams were returned to their respective sidelines. The ruling was issued. It was a running through the center penalty, a call of which most in the stadium had never heard. The official who threw the flag determined that a Demopolis defensive lineman made inappropriate contact with the snapper rather than shooting a gap on either side. The effects? The ball would be moved closer and Carver would get another opportunity.

The distance was close enough that the ensuing attempt was almost automatic. The snap was clean. The hold was good. The kick was up. Demopolis’ season was over. What happened over the next several minutes was little more than a surreal blur. Players were crying, holding one another. Grown men were squalling. One team experienced both sides of the coin with the tossing of a flag.

Over the next several weeks, outrage subsided and debates as to the validity of the call became a memory. All that was left for Tom Causey, his staff and returning players to do was look to 2009. To avoid the same fate, they had to take that moment and use it to prepare for their next opportunity.

This Friday night at Tiger Stadium in Demopolis is the first real test of whether or not DHS players have done that. They will get their third chance at Carver. The question in everyone’s mind seems to be whether Demopolis is ready to take the next step.

The answer will come at the end of what promises to be four grueling quarters of football.

If the Tigers are ready, then Friday night is just another football game. It will not matter that they are 0-2 against Carver or that, collectively, Demopolis male sports hold an overall 1-6 record against the Wolverines. It won’t matter that Carver won the region last year. And it won’t matter that they were favored by many to do the same coming into this season.

If Demopolis is ready to take the next step, then the Tigers will not see flashes of a cold November evening and a long bus ride home. Instead, the Tigers will see a team lined up across from them that is willing to do everything it can to keep them from obtaining their goals for yet another year.