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Demopolis begins follow-up to state title run

Their state championship season officially in the rearview, the Demopolis High Tigers took to the practice field Monday for the first of a 10-day stretch that will culminate with a spring game in Meridian, Miss. against Quitman and host Meridian.

“Realistically, we just want to go over there and play extremely hard,” Demopolis head coach Tom Causey said of his team’s goal for the competition, which will be broken down into two halves with one half coming against each of the Mississippi-based schools.

However, his squad has plenty of questions to answer before arriving at its May 14 date in Mississippi. The majority of those questions revolve around identifying defensive personnel.

“Guyl like Tremaine Sanders, Michael Davis, Martaze Jackson and Davon Bryant-Smith just in the front seven have to be replaced. Then you go to the secondary and you’ve got Anthony Hardy, Larry Cobb, Dalvin Harris and Jeremy Wallace. So we’re having to slow things down for our defensive guys,” Causey said. “Defensively, this is the most turnover we’ve had since we’ve been here.”

The Tigers return defensive lineman Reid Barkley as the only starter in the front seven. He will get help from Neilson Renner, who logged significant playing time on the defensive line down the stretch, proving productive in the state title game. Beyond that, there are many mysteries to be solved for a Demopolis team that is trying to optimize its personnel.

“We want to concentrate on our two-deep (depth chart),” Causey said. “We’ve got a lot of guys that were seniors that we lost. Nobody will ever take their place, but we’re trying to find guys to fill those spots. Some of those spots may take two guys.”

In addition to focusing on the defensive side of the ball, Causey said the team really wants to get better in the kicking game.

“We really want to work hard on getting better at special teams,” Causey said. “We concentrated on that a lot (Monday).”

With all of the problems to be solved, the Tigers are receiving a great deal of aid simply from their circumstances, which allow for complete familiarity for the first time in Causey’s tenure.

“We were a little more familiar with all the players and they were a little more familiar with all of us,” Causey said of Monday’s workout. “This is the first time since I’ve been here that our entire staff is back intact.”

The Tigers are not afforded as many repetitions as their May 14 opponents given that Mississippi teams are allowed 15 days of spring activity versus the 10 granted by the AHSAA. As such, Causey believes each day is crucial.

“When we get a day like we had (Monday), we’ll go full speed,” Causey said. “We’re looking for surprises. we want guys to step up and take it rather than sit back and wait.”