Demopolis to face once-beaten Toros Friday

11-9-2012 — Demopolis, Ala. — Demopolis’ Roderick Davis runs in the open field during the Tigers’ first round playoff victory over the Sylacauga Aggies.

Demopolis (9-2) will look to extend its playoff life another week Friday when it travels to play Region 1 winner Spanish Fort (10-1) in the second round of the Class 5A state playoffs.

The Tigers have tangled with the Toros on only one other occasion, the 2009 state semi-finals. On that night, Demopolis edged visiting Spanish Fort 29-28.

While there will certainly be similarities between the Toro team Demopolis sees Friday and its 2009 predecessor, DHS head coach Tom Causey said this year’s Spanish Fort team has a decidedly different offensive mindset.

“In 2009, they would throw it, but they were more of a run downhill at you team. Right now, they’re a pass-first, run-second team,” Causey said. “Defensively, they are very similar to what they were then scheme wise. They will play four-man front but they like to base out of three-man front. They are really aggressive on defense. They score a lot of points and they score them in bunches on offense.”

Spanish Fort keys the bulk of its passing attack on the capable arm of senior Joel Poe, a signal-caller with an arsenal of weapons at his disposal.

“Joel Poe, it starts with him on offense. He’s the guy that makes them go,” Causey said. “Blain Crain, the big receiver they’ve got, he’s a good player. Samuel Harris, the slot receiver, is a dang good player and Devonte Patrick is a guy they move around. Running game wise, they play about four different running backs and all of them bring something a little bit different. But it all starts with Poe at quarterback and works its way out.”

Limiting the Toro offense is a tall order for any defensive unit as Spanish Fort has 50 or more points five times this season and been held under 30 points only twice.

Causey said the Tigers’ best chance at limiting Spanish Fort entails all 11 defensive players completing their respective assignment effectively.

“We’ve got to get (Poe) off his mark and even when he’s off his mark he’s pretty good. If we’re playing zone, we’ve got to stay in our zones. If we make him move, stay in our zones, don’t leave where we’re at. If we’re in man-to-man, don’t peak and start looking back in the backfield. Stay locked onto the receivers. Let our front do their job,” Causey said of the responsibility his defense will face Friday. “He’s made some really big plays for them this year moving out of the pocket with his eyes down the field and throwing the ball down the field. Once you start putting a lot of pressure on them, the screen game is pretty good. It’s a tough week for us. That’s for sure.”

The Toros complement their offense with a defensive unit that has surrendered 30 points or more on only three occasions this season. Leading that group is standout cornerback Jonathan Cook, a 5-11, 175-pound senior that appears headed to play his college ball in the Big 10.

“A lot speed and they’re really physical. They run to the ball. They get 11 hats to the football and they come after you from every angle,” Causey said. “They’ve got a corner, Jonathan Cook, he’s committed to Nebraska. Unreal player. He does a real good job of reading and reacting. His hands are on the ball every game in the secondary. He’s physical on the run. He’s one of the best I’ve seen back there this year for sure. He’s really good at playing defensive back.”

While Causey is aware of Spanish Fort’s individual talent and team ability, he stressed his confidence in the team that will don Demopolis blue Friday night. Citing the team’s focus on improving each week, Causey referenced the first round playoff win over Sylacauga as another step in the right direction for the Tigers.

“I know we (improved against Sylacauga). Same things are important this week as they were last week. That doesn’t change,” Causey said. “The angles we’re taking, hat placement and being physical, those are the three things that whoever does them the best Friday night will win. All the things they do offensively and defensively and all the things we do offensively and defensively come down to those three things.”