Kemp commits to Southern Miss

Demetrius Kemp committed to Southern Miss over the weekend.

Demetrius Kemp committed to Southern Miss over the weekend.

After receiving more than a dozen offers from Division I programs, Demetrius Kemp verbally committed to Southern Miss over the weekend.

“I like the coaching staff. I mean Coach [Todd] Monken, Coach [John Wozniak] and Coach [Andrew] Thacker, they’re all real nice guys. I talked to at least one of those three guys just about every day,” Kemp, a Demopolis High senior safety and receiver, said of his developing relationship with the coaching staff at the Hattiesburg, Miss. school.

Kemp said the Southern Miss coaching staff gave him the option of playing either offense or defense, a difficult decision made easier by the temptation to take part in the Golden Eagles’ wide open attack.

“They said it was up to me whether I play offense or defense,” Kemp said. “But I think I’ll play slot receiver and get a chance to run in that passing offense they have.”

“I think it is a great fit for him,” Demopolis head coach Tom Causey said. “I think it is one of the up-and-coming programs. I think Coach Monken and his staff are there for the long haul and I think his ability fits what they want to do really well.”

Kemp has seen marked improvement over the course of his high school career, stepping into his own as a junior. The 2012 campaign saw him score eight total touchdowns in five different ways as he starred on offense, defense and special teams for the Tigers.

“He has always been a good athlete,” Causey said. “He has worked hard at fine tuning his skills. He has stepped up as an individual and has steeped into that leadership role.”

“It’s a great opportunity,” Kemp said of the offer. “I know it is a rare opportunity for a lot of kids, so I feel like I’m very blessed. I cherish it.”

Kemp becomes the third member of the Demopolis senior class to commit to a Division I program, joining Cortez Lewis and Tyler Merriweather in that category. Lewis committed to Northern Illinois last week while Merriweather committed to Georgia Tech earlier this summer.

“I think it has a lot to do with genetics and their parents and who they are and where they’re from,” Causey said of the opportunities available to his trio of standouts. “We’re proud. Don’t get me wrong. But we can’t take credit for that. That comes out of their houses that they grew up in and the youth league coaches and middle school coaches, all the way up to us. We’re really excited for the kids and our school and our town.”

Causey also pointed to the academic prowess of the trio of seniors as a significant factor in the collegiate opportunities that have been extended to them.

“Demetrius is an honor student. He is a guy that is in the National Science Honor Society, he and Tyler Merriweather both,” Causey said. “They’re all three carrying over a 3.0 in their core classes and the ACT was a qualifying score the first time they took it.”

Kemp had offers from Georgia Tech and Middle Tennessee among others.

Lewis commits to Northern Illinois

10-19-2012 -- Satsuma, AL -- Demopolis' Cortez Lewis (15) heads for the corner on his 9-yard TD run against Satsuma. (Michael Clements/The West Alabama Watchman)

10-19-2012 — Satsuma, AL — Demopolis’ Cortez Lewis (15) heads for the corner on his 9-yard TD run against Satsuma. (Michael Clements/The West Alabama Watchman)

Cortez Lewis locked up a Division I opportunity Thursday when he verbally committed to Northern Illinois.

The 6-2, 200-pound Demopolis High receiver spurned offers from Furman and The Citadel among others in his decision to choose the Huskies, a program that showed itself a budding national power last year with a 12-2 campaign and an appearance in the Discover Orange Bowl.

“They were in a BCS game last year and have been very successful over the last 10 or 15 years. It is a very proud football program and we’re excited to have a player committed to a program like Northern Illinois,” Demopolis head coach Tom Causey said of Lewis’ commitment.

Despite the fact that NIU’s DeKalb, Ill. campus is more than 800 miles from Demopolis, Lewis said he felt right at home in conversations with the coaching staff, making his decision an easy one.

“They came down here during spring ball. They were watching a couple of our players. They happened to see me that day at practice and they told their wide receiver coach about me,” Lewis said. “I always wanted to go somewhere that I feel very welcome and feel very wanted. When they were talking to me and having conversations with me, I felt like it was a family, like it was Demopolis. I didn’t have any second thoughts about it.”

Lewis took over as a regular at the A-Back spot in the Demopolis offense last season. A hybrid slot receiver with rushing and blocking responsibilities mixed in, the A-Back spot allowed Lewis to display his versatility in his first year as a starter.

8-31-2012  -- Tuscaloosa, Ala. --  Cortez Lewis scores the first Demopolis touchdown of the night on an 11 yard reception from Tucker Jones to go ahead of American Christian Academy 6-0.  (Michael Clements /  The West Alabama Watchman)

8-31-2012 — Tuscaloosa, Ala. — Cortez Lewis scores the first Demopolis touchdown of the night on an 11 yard reception from Tucker Jones to go ahead of American Christian Academy 6-0. (Michael Clements / The West Alabama Watchman)

“Cortez has improved every year. Really since May, I think he has figured out that he can be a really good player. I think some of the attention that these college coaches have given them has motivated him. His potential is unlimited. He can be as good as he chooses to be,” Causey said of the senior, who is expected to play slot receiver at Northern Illinois.

“I want to do everything to the best of my ability and help my team to stay focused on one thing and that’s to win ball games,” Lewis said of his goals for his final high school season.

Those goals will likely prove more easily attainable for Lewis now as the battles to cement his football future and get himself in an academic position to do so have largely been won.

“The guys who are getting all the interest right now this early are the guys who are academically qualified at this point. We’ve got some guys who may get the opportunity to play but they’ve still got some work to do academically,” Causey said. “They’re not getting the attention from those schools that some of those other guys are. Any time you can get yourself academically qualified and ready to go, it makes you much more appealing to a college program.”

Lewis echoed his coach’s sentiments as he offered advice to younger players hoping for an opportunity similar to that extended to him by NIU.

“Stay focused. Set a goal for yourself. Make sure you behave in school and keep your grades up. If you want to do something, set a goal and go do it,” Lewis advised.

Lewis becomes the second member of the Demopolis High Class of 2014 to commit to a NCAA Division I football program. Defensive end Tyler Merriweather cemented his intent to sign with Georgia Tech earlier this summer.

Lewis, Merriweather and the rest of the Demopolis Tigers are scheduled to open their regular season at home Friday, Aug. 30 against American Christian Academy.

Demopolis faces stiff challenge in Greenville

Demopolis has very little opportunity to celebrate its 27-26 victory over rival Thomasville as it must go on the road for a key region contest against Greenville Friday.

Greenville presents itself a familiar adversary to the visiting Tigers, having beaten Demopolis 30-14 in 2011. Friday will mark the ninth time the teams have played since 2004.

“We’ve got our hands full and it ought to be a great opportunity for us to find out where we match up in our region,” Demopolis head coach Tom Causey said of the importance of the contest.

While the game will certainly be key in determining playoff positioning, a victory over Greenville would lock up a playoff spot for Demopolis.

Accomplishing that feat means overcoming an experienced, athletic Greenville squad that has won its last three regular season home meetings with Demopolis.

“I think their three D-linemen and two inside backers are as good as there are in the state of Alabama. Those guys seem like they’ve been playing over there for six years,” Causey said of the strength of the Greenville defense. “Really physical and fast on defense, athletic skill guys that catch the ball, run with the football extremely hard, really good offensive line. Their record is no indication of what kind of football team we’re playing, 2-3 is not indicative of what type of team they’ve got.”

Greenville enters having sustained losses to Class 6A Anniston, unbeaten Jackson and Class 5A Charles Henderson.

And while Greenville’s win-loss record is not as impressive as Demopolis’ 5-0 mark, all the hosting Tigers need to do to put themselves ahead of DHS for playoff positioning is win. Greenville will look to pull that off by bombarding Demopolis with a series of talented skill players that Causey believes make Greenville among the more dangerous offenses his team will see this year.

“They want to pound you. They want to do it from the spread formation and pound it up in there on you, quick passing game, not a lot of stuff down the field. They are going to pound you,” Causey said of Greenville’s offensive preference. “They want to hit the ball between the tackles then hit you with their speed on the edge after you start condensing the middle.”

Greenville will look to impose its offensive will with a new-look set of skill players that features former quarterback Kent Riley in the slot and former slot receiver Harper Vinson at quarterback.

“(Vinson) was one of the guys that scared us to death last year as a slot for them. Just a fantastic athlete, throws the ball well. I think it probably made them a better offense moving Riley to slot because now they have a threat at wide receiver in a big tall kid, (Matthew Craig) that’s about 6-5, 200 pounds. You’ve got Riley in the slot. You’ve got the kid who was a backup quarterback last year, (Jerome Watkins), playing running back, (Donte Lee) back at running back and you’ve got (Vinson) at the quarterback position,” Causey said. “Now they’ve got threats on the outside, in the slot, quarterback and both running back spots. I think it has made them a more dangerous offense.”

The teams have played one another 12 times with the first meeting coming in 1984. Demopolis leads the all-time series 7-5.

DHS Powder Puff puts spotlight on Girls of Fall

The cool air and bright lights are no longer just for the Boys of Fall, at least not at Demopolis High School.

The annual DHS Powder Puff tradition takes on a new feel this year as it moves from its customary spring date right into the heart of high school football season.

“This was actually Coach (Tom) Causey’s idea. He made the suggestion last year for several reasons,” event sponsor and DHS teacher Jay Russell said of the decision to move the girls’ flag football tournament to autumn. “In the spring, it’s usually pretty hot when we do it. We did it during the daytime. (DHS principal Leon) Clark wanted it to not interfere with instructional time, so we decided to move it. And the girls have been asking for a couple of years if we could have it at night so their parents could come see them play. Mr. Clark wanted it to be at night. Coach Causey wanted to move it closer to football season so it would help build up school spirit and support for the football team.”

The event, which stands as one of the premiere School Fest fundraisers for Demopolis High, pits the freshman girls against the sophomore girls and the junior girls against the senior girls in a flag football tournament where the DHS football players act as coaches, male students act as cheerleaders and bragging rights hang in the balance.

This year’s event will see the first round games played Thursday, Oct. 4 at Tiger Stadium with the festivities kicking off with a pep rally at 6 p.m. The games will be played simultaneously immediately following the pep rally.

“I think it has grown every year a little bit more. The first year we did it was my first year teaching here at Demopolis and it was just the juniors against the seniors and it was a night game. It was on the old field, but nobody knew what it was because it was the very first year,” Russell said.

The following year, all classes began to participate in the event and it ultimately grew into a reliable fundraiser for the Demopolis City Schools Foundation.

“Every year, it has grown a little bit more. We also found out that Demopolis Middle School, a couple years ago, started doing Powder Puff. So, now, we’re getting girls who’ve played over there coming here and playing,” Russell said. “Most of the freshman team this year, played and won last year at the middle school as eighth graders. We have 20 boys signed up to be Powder Puff cheerleaders, which is the most participation we’ve ever had.”

While the event stands as a unique fundraiser, it is the role reversal element that makes it such a positive experience for all those involved.

“(Causey) and the other coaches have enjoyed it because it gives people who aren’t necessarily involved with the football program at all a chance to see what it is like to prepare and go through a game because we try to make it as close to the real thing as we possibly can. Traditionally, football players serve as assistant coaches,” Russell said. “And, it’s good for them because they get to see what the coaches have to go through to prepare them for the games.”

While the players and coaches get a taste of game preparation, the designated spirit squad for the game gets some insight into the rigors of organized pep.

“They’ve been doing a great job. They’re having a good time with it,” Russell said of the 20 boys who make up the largest cheerleading contingent in DHS Powder Puff history. “This is another one of those things where it gives boys a chance to see what these girls have to go through. Several of the cheerleaders have been helping them learn cheers.”

When the teams take the field, it is the senior group that will likely stand as the favorite. Through three years of Powder Puff action, the Class of 2013 has gone 6-0 and looks to end its DHS tenure unscathed.

“They are completely undefeated. They have won every game they have ever played. They have some very athletic girls. Their first year as freshmen, they beat the senior team for the championship,” Russell said of the seniors. “They are extremely athletic. They play well together. Many of the girls already play together on the basketball team. They are the team to beat. They’re always the team to beat.”

The teams that win their respective games Thursday will advance to the championship round, which is scheduled to be played Thursday, Oct. 18 at 6 p.m. at Tiger Stadium.