Tiger comeback stopped short Saturday

Published 11:16 pm Saturday, August 27, 2011

HOOVER — Demopolis’ fourth quarter comeback attempt fell two yards short Saturday when James Wilson was drug down deep in Louisville territory, two yards shy of moving the chains and 12 away from the end zone. The play, which came with 1:17 remaining on the game clock sealed the Tigers’ 24-17 season-opening loss to Louisville (Miss.).

The Tigers (0-1) trailed 24-3 entering the fourth quarter after appearing hapless on offense most of the game.

“We had too many mental mistakes early on,” Demopolis head coach Tom Causey said. “We’ve got to stop turning the ball over.”

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Prior to being tackled short of the sticks, Wilson had carried the ball five times for 52 yards during the game’s climactic drive, which was marred by a holding penalty and a pair of dropped passes. The Demopolis possession began at the 50 yard line with more than two minutes remaining on the clock after the defense forced a key three-and-out on Louisville to give its team a chance for the tie or win.

Wilson broke free around the left side on the first play of the drive and appeared to take the ball inside the 15 before a yellow flag indicated a holding penalty that moved the Tigers back to the 37. After an incomplete pass and a sack, Wilson erupted for 31 yards on a sprint to the 20. With the Demopolis sideline riding high on the momentum that accompanied its 14-point fourth quarter, Wilson took the ball to the right side on fourth and three only to watch a small army of white jerseys greet him near the line of scrimmage.

“That’s what we talked about at halftime,” Causey said of the character his team showed in its comeback attempt.

The notion of a comeback became believable with 3:50 to go in the game when junior quarterback Tucker Jones blasted into the end zone from five yards out to punctuate a six-play, 69-yard Demopolis drive. His scoring run gave him 58 yards on four carries on the possession, including a 44-yard jaunt down to the Louisville 25 which breathed new life into the Tigers.

Demopolis got its first touchdown of the game less than three minutes earlier when Wilson punched the ball in from two yards out to cap a nine-play, 62-yard drive. Mitch McPherson added the extra point to cut the deficit to 24-10 with 6:44 to play.

The scoring spree came on the heels of three quarters of offensive deficiencies for the Tigers. Demopolis’ first drive of the fourth quarter lasted exactly two plays and ended with a Louisville interception at the Tiger 20.

The Demopolis defense stood tall after the miscue and forced Louisville to turn the ball over on downs.

“I’m really proud of the way our defense played all day long,” Causey said. “We gave up one play there in the second quarter.”

The Tiger defense found itself under fire in the first quarter when Louisville recovered a Demopolis fumble at the DHS 7. Two plays later, the Wildcats were able to convert the turnover into points for the 6-0 lead.

The Wildcats’ second touchdown of the game came with 5:42 to play in the second quarter after the Louisville defense recovered a Demopolis fumble on the DHS 1 and wasted little time turning the miscue into a 14-3 lead.

Louisville’s final touchdown came with 1:02 to go in the second quarter when the Wildcats hit on a 44-yard touchdown pass to up the lead to 22-3.

Demopolis’ first drive of the second half lasted 13 plays and covered 56 yards before stalling at the Louisville 19. The next Demopolis possession lasted exactly one play, ending when Jones was sacked in the end zone for a safety.

Demopolis got on the board in the first quarter when McPherson converted on a 21-yard field goal.

Jones ended the night as the Tigers’ leading rusher, accounting for 118 yards on 17 carries. Wilson finished with 117 yards on 24 carries. Demetrius Kemp added 58 yards on eight attempts while Tre Dotson toted the ball four times in the second half for 30 yards. Jerry Campbell did not play in the second half after carrying the ball four times for 50 yards in the first.

The game was the opening half of a double-header at Spain Park High School that was part of the Alabama-Mississippi Gridiron Challenge. The Tigers play next Friday night on the road against region foe Chilton County.