Demopolis looking to build on “physical” jamboree performance

Demopolis' R.J. Cox (42), Erin White (45) and Marcus Wright (26) take down a Tuscaloosa County ball carrier.

Demopolis’ R.J. Cox (42), Erin White (45) and Marcus Wright (26) take down a Tuscaloosa County ball carrier.

Even though it is his first season helming the Demopolis Tiger program, Stacy Luker knows exactly what to expect when his team steps onto the field to kickoff the 2015 season Friday night.

“When you get Thomasville, you know you’re going to have a physical football team, an athletic football team and a well-coached football team,” Luker said of the task that awaits his Tigers when they hit the road Friday. “I think both teams want to control the line of scrimmage and sustain drives and try to get the defense off the field as much as possible. We’re both sort of built the same.”

Luker brings his customary Wing-T style to Demopolis, employing for the Tigers in blue a system that was long executed with precision by the Tigers in maroon. Still, Luker knows that the philosophy of Thomasville is the same as it ever has been: be more physical at the point of attack.

“They’ve ventured away from their traditional Wing-T, but the basis of it all is still the same: hands on the ground and we’re wanting to block more physical than the other team, we’re wanting to play defense more physical than them. None of that has changed,” Luker said.

Thomasville accomplished that outcome last week in its season opener against Sweet Water, taking a 34-6 win over the rival Bulldogs. Meanwhile, Demopolis was trying its hand in its final preseason tuneup against Class 7A Tuscaloosa County.

Demopolis' Rahmeel Cook takes down Tuscaloosa County's quarterback.

Demopolis’ Rahmeel Cook takes down Tuscaloosa County’s quarterback.

“I liked our physicalness. I thought we played hard. It’s really in their DNA on Friday nights to get after it,” Luker said of his squad. “I think we are going to be able to trust them in those tough, physical football games. That’s what that was Friday night. The varsity part of it was a real physical game for us.”

In his team’s best litmus test since an unflattering spring jamboree against Pleasant Grove, Luker saw marked improvement on both sides of the line of scrimmage.

“I thought our defensive front was going to be good and I thought they played well. We didn’t have our full unit. (Senior defensive end) Travares Hall was out the other night. Erin White slid from the three technique out there to end and I thought he played well for us. And we didn’t give up any big plays, defensively. I thought our front seven was real strong the other night,” Luker said. “But I thought our offensive line stepped up. They probably blocked as well as what they’ve blocked yet all summer long. That group, as a whole, I was pleased with the progress that I’ve seen from them. We’re not where we want to be, but we’re not where we were in May either. That’s important.”

While he is pleased with the improvements his team showed, Luker also noted his concern with the penalties his squad accrued over the course of the contest, so much so that correcting the matter has been a key point of emphasis in this week’s practices.

“We had 12 penalties as a team for 113 yards. I’m not sure how many our first unit had, but they had their share,” Luker said. “That’s something going into a game against a team like Thomasville that we know we’ve got to get corrected. We can’t put ourselves behind the chains offensively because of penalties. We need to be able to keep the playbook open.”

Demopolis has lost four of the last seven meeting against Thomasville, including an 18-14 home loss last season. This go-round, the game precedes a front-loaded region slate that includes contests against Calera and Helena.

“It’s a good measuring stick, of course. It’s tough, in that, emotionally you’re going to be invested in this game pretty deep. Then you have to bring them back down and get ready for, probably, the best team in the region next week,” Luker said. “That’s going to be tough because this is a big football game here. I think it has a rivalry feel to it from what I’ve understood and have gotten from the coaches and the kids. It’s always fun to open with a game like that.”

Demopolis and Thomasville are set to kick at 7 p.m. Friday.