Uncharted Territory: Tigers set new wins mark

Published 9:08 pm Tuesday, March 2, 2010

It is an exciting time to be a part of the Demopolis High soccer program. The team hosted its first tournament ever Saturday, an event in which it notched its sixth win of the season. That victory, which came over Holy Spirit, set a new high mark for wins in a single season for the Tigers; a feat the team accomplished just nine matches into the 2010 campaign.

The Holy Spirit win came at the back end of a 24-hour stretch in which the Tigers played four matches, including a Friday night double-header against region foe Central-Tuscaloosa. Over that span, Demopolis won three of its four games, dropping only its clash with Alma Bryant, a short-handed loss that came while the Tigers were playing without seniors Keith Junious and Joel Coddington who were forced to sit due to illness.

“I’m proud of them for coming out and having three wins out of four last weekend,” head coach Peter Keen said. The weekend marked the second straight that the Tigers played at least three games in the span of one day. It also marked the last time the Tigers will have to accomplish that difficult task this season as the Tigers’ schedule the rest of the way consists of single matches.

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“Unfortunately, we backed two weekends in a row up with three and four games each weekend,” Keen said. “We’re looking forward to going into single games,.”

Given what they’ve accomplished thus far, Keen and his team will also likely be in a continuous battle with complacency over the coming weeks. Having already accomplished more than any of their predecessors, it becomes increasingly easy for the Tigers to slack in their focus. In order to avoid that type of lull, Keen said his team will work at maintaining the habits that have proven successful thus far.

“You’ve got to keep the same practices that you’ve been doing,” he said. “This is not a time to let up. This is a time to keep going.”

While the program is tasting this level of success for the first time, Keen has experience with helping to guide a team through a hot streak. He did that with the now defunct Demopolis High girls soccer team, a squad that grabbed 12 wins in a single season.

“We stayed the same,” he said. “We practiced. We conditioned.”

Practicing and conditioning are all the team is able to do this week as it takes several days away from competition due to the graduation exam. Its next chance to prove its mettle comes Friday when it goes on the road to region rival Pleasant Grove.

And as successful as the team has been thus far, one bad performance at Pleasant Grove could send the team right back to where it was a season ago when it dropped the back end of a home-and-home with the Spartans and wound up missing its first ever playoff berth on a technicality. The PGHS loss helped in landing the 2009 Tigers in a tie with Walker High, a stalemate that was broken by point differential.

“That’s an area game,” Keen said of Friday’s Pleasant Grove game. “Sometimes it gets down to point differential to determine who goes to the playoffs. Last year, that beat us out. This year, we are going to do whatever we can to make sure that doesn’t beat us out.”

Keen and assistant coach Keith Jackson are working to keep the Tigers focused squarely on the Spartans as Friday approaches. In the teams’ first meeting of the season, Demopolis started its’ campaign off with a 5-0 win. But the Tigers dropped the Spartans by a similar margin a year ago before inexplicably falling to Pleasant Grove in the second game.

“Last year they did that to us,” Keen said. “You can’t go in too cocky with a team like Pleasant Grove. They’ll come from behind and beat you.”

The Pleasant Grove match kicks off a run of 12 scheduled games that includes two dates each with region rivals John Carroll and Walker. While Keen wants victories in all 12, he is more focused on his squad continuing to improve its standing and its play in view of a potential playoff run.

“We’re looking to finalize what we need as far as having chemistry on the field,” Keen said. “We need our players to know where everybody is going to be and when they are going to be there.”