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Tigers fall to Tuscaloosa County in season opener

DHS sees first half lead evaporate as Wildcats surge late

The Demopolis Tigers hit the road for the first game of the 2018 season where they fell to the 7A Tuscaloosa County Wildcats, 27-13.

It was a tale of two halves, with Demopolis getting turnovers and scoring in the first, but the Wildcats coming back strong with big plays in the second.

The Tigers took the lead early in the game and held on to it throughout the half. The first score of the contest came when quarterback Peyton Stevenson passed the ball off to Keyjun Gracie for a 17-yard score. A two-point try was no good.

The score would hold midway through the second quarter when Stevenson, a sophomore, found senior tight end Trey Murdock from 11 yards out for the score. Malaki Simpson’s point-after was good and Demopolis took a 13-0 lead with 4:59 to go in the half.

The Tiger defense played a good first half, recording two sacks, forced two turnovers, including an interception by Josh Mason.

Tuscaloosa County had a chance as the first half winded down. A big sack by A.J. Pruitt set the Wildcats back, but an interference call in the endzone gave them another chance, but a field goal try was no good leading to the halftime score of 13-0.

The Tigers got off to a tough start in the second half as the first play went to senior A.J. Besteder who fumbled the ball with the Wildcats recovering at the 34.

Tuscaloosa County went to power running game from there, with Damian Taylor taking on the brunt of the load with runs of 8, 10, and another 8, ultimately taking the ball into the endzone from the 2-yard line. The point-after cut the Demopolis lead to 13-7 early in the third quarter.

Things did not get better for the Tiger offense on the following possession. After a kick return to the 19, a five yard loss was followed  by a 12-yard sack all the way down to the 2. After the punt, the Wildcats had favorable field position.

After a few strong runs, Tuscaloosa County was faced with a fourth-and-two when the snap was botched and the Tigers recovered at the 19.

But, on the first play, Stevenson went for the screen pass, but it was picked off and returned to the endzone, putting Demopolis behind for the first time in the game, 14-13.

Demopolis would put together a drive later in the third, but it stalled at the Wildcat 36. With the quarter winding down, the Wildcats went to Woodrow Washington who found a big hole up the middle for a 49 yard run to the Tiger 42. An interference call moved the ball to the 29  and the Washington took control with six consecutive runs to the 1-yard line. A botched snap on fourth and goal was picked up by the Wildcats and taken in to extend their lead. The PAT was no good, keeping the Tigers within striking distance, 20-13, early in the fourth quarter.

Late in the fourth, the Tigers were driving but again stalled near midfield. On a fourth down play with about three minutes to go, the Wildcats picked off a pass and returned it back to the 26. They would score a few plays later to seal the victory, 27-13.

(This article originally appeared in the Saturday, August 25 issue of the Demopolis Times.)