Demopolis expects “big time challenge” from Hillcrest

The last time Tom Causey’s team took to the field against rival Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa, the squads totaled 119 points as Demopolis pulled out a 60-59 win on Halloween night 2013.

This year, Causey’s team has plenty of room for healthy trembling as the Tigers put their eight-game win streak on the line against a Patriot squad that has three losses to schools with a combined season record of 27-1.

Those losses came in the form of a 24-21 road defeat to 9-0 McAdory, a 28-26 setback to 8-1 Oak Mountain, and a 48-26 road loss to 9-0 Clay-Chalkville.

“Really, it’ll be a big time challenge for us this week,” Causey said in view of Thursday night’s regular season finale.

Hillcrest, which has not scored less than 21 points in any game this season, utilizes an explosive offense under first-year head coach Sam Adams.

“This year, their offense looks more like Auburn’s,” Causey said. “It’s a power run. It’s got some zone read stuff in it with some tempo.”

Triggering that offense is senior quarterback Chad Wyatt, the latest in a line of Patriot signal-callers that have boasted collegiate ability.

“I think the quarterback they’ve got there now is very good,” Causey said. “They’ve got three running backs. One of them, Brian Robinson, is a 10th grader. As a team, the three backs they play are the best three backs we’ve seen all year long.”

With the Patriots’ talent at the skill positions and their size on the offensive line coupled with the precision with which they execute Adams’ scheme, Causey knows his defense faces a tall order in Tiger Stadium Thursday night.

“They’re very explosive on offense,” Causey said. “It look like the field just gets wider and wider.”

Defensively, Hillcrest will look to slow down a run-first Tiger offense that has largely had its way since a season-opening loss to Thomasville.

“They’re multiple. They base out of a four-man front,” Causey said. “But they move around so much.”

Hillcrest has shown a penchant for loading the box with linebackers and safeties while boasting enough ability on the defensive edge to limit the passing game with its corners.

Yet, while Demopolis will face a tremendous challenge in Hillcrest, perhaps the biggest test for the Tigers will be how they recover from a stretch of more than a month in which they have not been forced to play intensely for a full 48 minutes.

Demopolis won a 28-21 nail-biter over Jackson Sept. 25. Since that time, Demopolis has boasted an average margin of victory of 34.75 points in a 4-0 stretch against Sumter Central, Central Tuscaloosa, Wilcox Central and Dallas County.

“I thought we came out with a great energy and played extremely hard early,” Causey said of last week’s 41-18 win over Dallas County. “Then we came out of the locker room flat. We were disappointed in the way we started the second half for sure. That’s my fault. But our guys did a good job of getting zeroed back in.”

Demopolis and Hillcrest are set for a 7 p.m. kickoff Thursday night at Tiger Stadium. Demopolis will honor its seniors before the game.