Demopolis football in 2016 Champions Challenge

Demopolis coach Stacy Luker talks with defensive coordinator Drew Luker. The Tigers are set to face Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa in the Champions Challenge at Cramton Bowl in Montgomery Thursday, Aug. 18 at 7 p.m.

Demopolis coach Stacy Luker talks with defensive coordinator Drew Luker. The Tigers are set to face Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa in the Champions Challenge at Cramton Bowl in Montgomery Thursday, Aug. 18 at 7 p.m.

The Demopolis High football team will get its first test of the 2016 season Thursday, Aug. 18 at 7 p.m. when it takes on Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa in the 11th annual AHSAA Champions Challenge.

The event, which takes place at Cramton Bowl in Montgomery, puts some of the state’s premier programs against one another over the span of three nights.

“It’s an honor because it gets good recognition for your program, for your school, for what you’ve accomplished in the past,” Demopolis coach Stacy Luker said of his team’s selection to the event. “Going off of Demopolis’ school and reputation, they know Demopolis has a good fan base and they travel well.”

“We are very excited about the three games we have lined up,” Alvin Briggs, director of the Alabama High School Athletic Directors and Coaches Association (AHSADCA) said. “Each of them has storied histories and strong communities that love high school football. We thank the City of Montgomery for helping us make these games possible each year.”

The Tigers open the Champion Challenge with Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa, a traditional power that finished at 8-4 and made a trip to the second round of the Class 6A playoffs in 2015. Helmed by coach Sam Adams, the Patriots boast a talented roster that includes 4-star running back and Alabama commit Brian Robinson.

“It’s a monster. We know that,” Luker said of how Hillcrest stacks up as a regular-season opener. “They’ve got a good team and a great program and they do have probably the No. 1 rated running back in the state of Alabama. As any other tough game, it just sharpens us, toughens us up and makes us better.”

Demopolis finished 10-3 in its first year under  Luker, punctuating its season with a quarterfinal loss to eventual state champion St. Paul’s in the Class 5A playoffs.

Demopolis last faced Hillcrest in 2014, losing 39-29 in the final game of the regular season. The schools have met 20 times with Demopolis holding a 7-13 record in the all-time series. This marks the second time one of Luker’s squads has played in the Champions Challenge. His 2011 Sweet Water Bulldogs faced Hamilton in an exhibition game at the event.

The other contests in the Champions Challenge will see Demopolis Academy alum Josh Niblett take his Hoover Bucs into battle against Jamie DuBose’s Central-Phenix City Red Devil. That game is set for Friday, Aug. 19 at 7 p.m.

The cap to the trilogy of high-profile contests is Saturday, Aug. 20 at 7 p.m. when Andalusia faces Brooks.