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Tiger soccer blanks Spartans 5-0 in season-opening win

It took a week longer than they wanted, but the Demopolis Tigers opened their season and their new facility with a 5-0 win over Pleasant Grove Tuesday. The Tiger soccer team initially planned to play its season-opener against Jeff Davis last week before competing in the Cane Cup Classic last weekend. However, the weather wreaked havoc on that schedule, forcing DHS to open its season with a region game.

“We intentionally set up to play that first game and then go into that tournament knowing we’d have at least four, possibly five, games before that first area game,” DHS head coach Peter Keen said.

Despite the delay, the Tigers made the most of their first opportunity, getting five goals from four different players to open their new field with a bang.

“We started a little slower than I would have liked,” Keen admitted following the game.

His team took 22 shots in the game’s first period, managing to connect on only one. That one came off the foot of Jarvis Lawson in the 35th minute on a play that was assisted by Cameron Fendley.

While the Tigers maintained control for the vast majority of the game, the Spartans did break through on a handful of occasions in the first half. Pleasant Grove took seven of its eight total shot opportunities in the game’s opening period.

“The defense started out a little slow,” Keen said. “In the second half, right there at the end of the first really, they picked up and began to play like I know they can.”

Keen anticipates his defense being one of the team’s greatest assets this season as the Tigers’ back line boasts four players at least six-feet tall.

“They are large,” Keen said. “But in saying that, we do know that soccer is about agility and ball control.”

The Tigers showed better ball control in the second half. In addition to limiting the Spartans to only only one shot on goal in the final period, Demopolis converted on four of its own scoring opportunities.

In the game’s 58th minute, Fendley pushed the ball to the left side of the goal to convert an unassisted goal. Three minutes later, Fendley took a corner kick opportunity that was denied by a Pleasant Grove defender. Tyler Howerton capitalized on the deflection, putting the rebound in to stretch the lead to 3-0.

With a 3-0 lead, Keen took the chance to get experience and contributions from some of his younger players, subbing in a handful of reserves including a pair of seventh graders.

“I was very pleased with them,” Keen said of his younger players’ performances.

Demopolis added to its lead late when Joel Coddington scored off a Rusty Palmer assist in the game’s 74th minute.

“Rem (Keen) and Rusty the center midfielders, didn’t get any goals, but they did a good job of getting the ball to their forwards,” Keen said. “That’s what we’ve been working on the last couple of years.”

Demopolis’ final goal of the match came in the game’s 77th minute when Lawson stopped intercepted the Spartan goal tender’s kick and returned it to center, burying the ball in the net for an unassisted goal and the 5-0 Tiger win.

The four second-half goals helped nullify the sting of Demopolis’ struggles finishing scoring opportunities. The Tigers took a total of 45 shots in the game.

“The balls are being played through and we’re taking the shots,” Keen said. “We were in the position. It’s just the shots were unlucky. That happens sometimes.”

Demopolis plays again in the Metro Area Tournament this weekend before returning home to host Hillcrest Tuesday.