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James’ run puts Tigers in the Super 6

Spanish Fort’s 34-yard field goal attempt sailed wide with 9.8 seconds remaining on the clock, giving Demopolis a 29-28 win and a date with Russellville in the Class 5A state title game Thursday.

“I was sure praying to God because I didn’t want us to lose another one like we did last year,” DHS head coach Tom Causey said. The Tigers’ 2008 playoff run ended in the third round against Carver. After the Tigers had scored a two-point conversion to take a late lead in that game, their season ended abruptly on a last second kick by the Wolverines. Friday night, the Tigers appeared to exorcise those demons as the Toros’ failed attempt made Damarcus James’ two-point conversion run just 42 seconds earlier stand up.

On the game’s pivotal possession, the Tigers utilized a 53-yard kickoff return from junior Kiandre Adams to ignite an 11-play, 45-yard march that culminated in James scoring his third touchdown of the game from two yards out to cut the Spanish Fort lead to 28-27 with 51.8 seconds to play in the game.

“No,” Causey said when asked if there was any doubt as to whether or not he would go for two on the ensuing play. “The logic is (Spanish Fort is) huge up front. They’re too big on a 10-yard field for us up front. We had to do what we had to do and end that game right there.”

Looking to avoid overtime and the obligatory 10-yard fight that would accompany it, Causey’s offense huddled on the sidelines during at Toro timeout.

“There was some discussion in the timeout about what play to run. I had it in my mind the whole time,” Causey said. “There was some talk about a little power pass. You’ve got to put it in No. 4’s hands right there.”

The Tigers did just that and James delivered again, giving Demopolis a 29-28 advantage.

The Toros proceeded to push the ball down the field, setting up what seemed to be an inevitable sequel to last year’s season-ending drama.

“(Last year) was running through my mind,” middle linebacker Michael Davis said. “We couldn’t let it happen again. We came too far.”

The Tigers found their first offensive success on the tail end of a stalled drive. After running eight plays, the Tigers were forced to punt. Tremaine Irby delivered a blow that separated the Toro return man from the ball, which quickly found its way into the possession of David France, setting DHS up 38 yards away from the game’s opening score.

James appeared to have the first points of the game just two plays later when he broke a 43-yard touchdown run and a series of Spanish Fort tackles in the process. After a holding call negated the run, the Tigers advanced it to the SFHS 11 before Davis blasted into the end zone on the first play of the second quarter.

An Aaron Boswell fumble recovery set up the Toros’ first score, which came on a 35-yard run by Patrick McGavin.

Demopolis responded with a five-play, 84-yard drive. The big play came of the possession came on an option pitch that saw James Wilson go 64 yards to the Toro 6. James scored his first of three touchdowns on a four-yard dash two plays later to give Demopolis the 14-7 lead.

Derrick Hosch connected on a 22-yard field goal with 8:08 to go in the third quarter, cutting the Tiger lead to 14-10.

Demopolis seemed ready to run away from Spanish Fort when James broke a 75-yard touchdown run two plays later. The Spence Overstreet extra-point extended the DHS lead to 21-10.

The Toros added another field goal on the next drive, cutting the game to 21-13 on a 24-yard Hosch kick with 3:03 to play in the third period. Demarco Montgomery pounced on a loose ball two plays later to give the Toros the possession at the DHS 20.

McGavin needed two plays to engineer a scoring drive that he punctuated himself with a three-yard run, cutting the lead to 21-19 with 1:26 to go in the third. McGavin then added the two-point run himself to tie the game at 21.

The fourth quarter opened with a Demopolis punt that set up a 15-play Toro drive which covered 65 yards and milked more than eight minutes off the game clock. McGavin pushed his way into the end zone from inches out to give the Toros their first lead of the game. The point after proved true, giving SFHS a 28-21 lead with 3:37 to play.

Adams then followed with his return, giving the Tigers new life. Quarterback Ben Pettus went a perfect 2-for-2 on the game-winning drive, finding Jeremy Wallace on both occasions. After a holding penalty and a sack, the Toros picked up a key pass interference call on a ball intended for Davis. That mistake gave Demopolis new life. Davids bolted 13 yards on an option pitch, setting up consecutive James runs which proved to win the game.

“Give Spanish Fort all the credit in the world,” Causey said of the Toros’ resiliency following the James two-point run. “We had to defend the entire field for the next 51 seconds.”

James finished his night with 27 carries for 195 yards, three touchdowns and an all-important two-point run. Davis added 35 yards and a score, but came up biggest on defense where he had 12 total tackles from his middle linebacker spot.

The win sends Demopolis to the Class 5A title game where it will face Russellville Thursday night.

“Be humble,” senior Larry Cobb told his team following the game.

“We’ve got one more week,” Causey said.

Game notes

* The game ended without a holding penalty being called against Spanish Fort, making it four consecutive games in which a Demopolis opponent has not incurred a holding penalty.

* Senior defensive lineman/linebacker Tre Jones was unable to dress for the game due to injury while senior offensive lineman Trent Blackwood got the second start of his career at the right guard spot.

* James’ performance Friday night gives him 949 yards on 131 carries during the Tigers’ four-game postseason run.