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Goodwin faces former team

RUSSELLVILLE — A picture of Doug Goodwin and his son, Devin, rests on the bookcase behind Goodwin’s desk inside the spacious Russellville field house.

The two are dressed in black and blue sporting the colors of the Demopolis Tigers, the team the pair helped guide to the 2004 4A state championship. Devin Goodwin was a record-setting quarterback for his father’s team that year.

Fast-forward five years, and that photo seems a little out of place now.

Thursday night, Goodwin will lead the Russellville Golden Tigers against Demopolis in the 5A state championship game at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa.

“There are a lot of people in Demopolis that we still care about,” Goodwin said Tuesday, as he made final preparations for Thursday’s game.

“We always come in and check the scores to see how they did every Friday night.”

Goodwin accepted the Russellville job in early 2007 and has led the Golden Tigers to a 35-6 record and back-to-back appearances in the Super Six championships since his arrival.

In 2008 he became the first coach in Alabama history to lead three different teams to the Super Six. He led Lineville to the 2A state title game twice and then beat Deshler to win the 4A crown in 2004.

Entering the 2009 season, expectations were high for a Russellville team coming off a state title game appearance the year before. Following a 3-0 start, the Golden Tigers dropped back-to-back games for the first time since 2000 and questions began to surface about the team’s ability to get back to the Super Six.

“When you do it like we did last year, when no one really expected us to do much, there really is not a burden on you,” Goodwin said.

“Then this season we had so many players coming back everybody expected a lot out of us, including ourselves.”

The Golden Tigers struggled in a mid-September road loss to Hartselle that included five turnovers and came at the end of an emotional day.

Senior center Justin Boyles lost his father, Mark, unexpectedly that morning.

“We had a lot going on the day of the Hartselle game and were real emotional early on and then made a lot of mistakes,” Goodwin said.

That tough loss was followed by a second set back the next week.

St. Paul’s traveled from Mobile to hand the Golden Tigers their worst regular season loss in years, winning 24-7.

“We weren’t ready to play,” Goodwin said. “As a coaching staff, we saw that coming and tried to tell our guys. Sometimes it’s hard to get across to 17-18 year-olds. I think they looked at it like, ‘Well, we beat them 41-7 down there last year the week after we lost to Hartselle so we will just follow the same pattern.’ It didn’t work like that.”

The Golden Tigers bounced back with nine straight wins, including four home playoff games.

“We have a bunch of really great kids that work hard,” Goodwin said. “Our seniors stepped up and took the bull by the horns and led this team.”

Those seniors led them to a match-up with Goodwin’s former team and a shot at the school’s first football state title since 1968. Russellville has been the state runner-up six previous times: in 1987, 1992, 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2008.

To capture that elusive title for Russellville, he must face-off against four former assistant coaches and a guy that he recommended to be his replacement.

Following his resignation from Demopolis, Goodwin suggested they hire a former region rival, Tom Causey, who had worked at Dallas County and Andalusia.

“When the superintendent and principal asked me for a recommendation, I suggested him,” Goodwin said.

“We had worked so hard to get the program to where it was I wanted to see them hire a good man and good coach to work with those players.”

Goodwin said that many of the seniors on this Demopolis team played as freshmen his last year there, including one who was a starter.

“It is interesting and fun that we are playing them,” Goodwin said. “But once the game starts I never know who is across the field, I am just thinking about the next play.”

Fighting through the distractions of a busy week, there is one goal at hand.

“This community is hungry for a state championship and that’s what we want to give them,” Goodwin said. “We want to win it for the town because the town has been so close and hasn’t had much success in the final game. Hopefully we can win one for them.”