Sweet Water scores in closing minutes to move to state title game

(Photo by Johnny Autery)
With 3:31 to play, Sasha Smith celebrates the go-ahead touchdown catch that proved to be the game winner.

Sweet Water is headed back to the Class 1A state championship for the first time since 2010 after beating Wadley 27-21 in a wild one Friday night. The teams combined for 21 points in the fourth quarter that saw three lead changes.

(Photo by Johnny Autery)
Trent Sams pins the ball against his helmet to help secure a touchdown catch in the first half against Wadley.

Sweet Water trailed 14-13 to open the frame with Wadley threatening again. With 10:38 to go in the game, Wadley ran the ball to the Sweet Water 29 before Shamar Lewis scooped a fumble and returned it 71 yards for a touchdown and the 19-14 lead.

Undaunted, Wadley fired right back as Trevor Cameron ran 18 yards for a touchdown and the 21-19 lead. The turning point for the Bulldogs came when Jonah Smith hit his younger brother Sasha for a 27-yard touchdown pass on a throw that saw the Sweet Water receiver go over the top and the take the ball away from a Wadley defensive back. Lewis punched in the conversion run for the 27-21 advantage with 3:31 to play.

Wadley opened the scoring with 8:20 left in the first quarter as Jamichael Angel scored from a yard out. The Bulldogs needed only 61 seconds to tie it when Jonah Smith hit Braylone Kidd for a 78-yard touchdown strike.

(Photo by Johnny Autery)
Sweet Water quarterback Jonah Smith threw for 240 yards and three touchdowns in the Bulldogs’ semifinal win over Wadley.

“He did great tonight. He made some big throws when he had to,” Sweet Water head coach Pat Thompson said of his quarterback. “Of course our receivers made some great catches.”

Sweet Water took the lead with 1:25 left in the opening half as Jonah Smith found Trent Sams for a 36-yard touchdown and the 13-7 advantage. The lead was short-lived as Wadley’s Connor Fordham hit Jonathan Poole for a 44-yard scoring pass and the 14-13 lead.

The final marks the second time in as many seasons that the Bulldogs have ended Wadley’s season. Sweet Water won the second round meeting between the two schools 21-20 in 2016.

Friday’s game saw a feisty Wadley defense commit to limiting the Sweet Water ground game. SWHS managed 148 yards on 38 carries. Wadley countered with 158 yards on 38 carries.

“They’re linebackers were very active. We couldn’t get to their linebackers to block them enough. They did a few things that gave us some trouble, but our passes were there,” Thompson said. “There were nine definitely in the box and the 10th player was sitting six or eight yards over the top of our tight end. They were going to make us throw to beat them. They had seen us run over the last couple of weeks and do what we do.”

Sweet Water found its greatest offensive success in the passing game. Jonah Smith completed 11 of 18 passes for 240 yards and three touchdowns.

Sweet Water advances to the Class 1A state championship Thursday at 3 p.m. at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa where it will play Pickens County.

Sweet Water rolls over Brantley

(Photo by Johnny Autery)
Junior Jah’Darius McIntosh drags down Brantley RB Michael Booker (25) for a loss.

Sweet Water had little trouble dispatching of Brantley Friday night on the way to a 41-13 victory in the second round of the AHSAA, Class 1A playoffs.

Shamar Lewis wasted no time announcing the Bulldogs’ intentions as he returned the opening kickoff 89 yards for a touchdown.

(Photo by Johnny Autery)
Purple Dawg Jaylon Williamson (44) splits two defenders and picks up a first down.

Jaylon Williamson scored the game’s first offensive touchdown when he punched it in from 15 yards out for a 14-0 lead.

Jacory Brown continued to pour it on with five seconds left in the first quarter as he scored on a 5-yard run to push the lead to 20-0.

Brantley looked to get off the deck with 10:22 remaining in the second quarter when Parker Driggers connected with Adrian Person for an 11-yard touchdown strike to narrow the gap to 20-7.

Jonah Smith followed with a touchdown toss of his own, hitting Chance Broussard for a 21-yard score to move the Sweet Water lead to 27-7.

Mack Wise broke a 27-yard touchdown run with 3:26 left in the opening half to narrow Brantley’s deficit to 27-13.

(Photo by Johnny Autery)
SW WR Chastian Washington (22) cradles the ball and makes the catch despite the efforts Brantley DB Jacob Odom (9)

Just before intermission fell in Nolan Atkins Stadium, Smith hit his younger brother Sasha Smith for a 12-yard touchdown pass and the 34-13 lead. The Sweet Water signal caller found the end zone one more time when he connected with Trent Sams for a 12-yard passing touchdown in the fourth quarter.

Smith finished 6 of 10 throwing for 90 yards and three touchdowns. Lewis led the ground game with 102 yards on 12 carries. Brown added 67 yards on 17 carries. Kaleb Greene intercepted a pass for the Sweet Water defense.

Sweet Water (10-1) hosts reigning state champion Maplesville next Friday night in the Class 1A quarterfinals.

Demopolis drops Central-Clay to move to quarterfinals

11-17-17 — Demopolis, Ala. — Demopolis’ Malaki Simpson hits a field goal from the hold of Andrew Patterson to give the Tigers their first points in their victory over Clay Central.

11-17-17 — Demopolis, Ala. — Demopolis’ Demetrius Davis (1) celebrates with Malaki Simpson (89) after Simpson hit a field goal to give the Tigers their first points of the game in their victory over Clay Central.

Demopolis relied on its defense at virtually every turn Friday night to frustrate Central-Clay County and punch its ticket to the Class 5A quarterfinals. Demopolis downed the Volunteers 17-6 to set up a third round date with Vigor High next week.

The Tigers found themselves with their backs proverbially against the wall early as the Volunteers had the ball on the Demopolis 1. As Cameron Peoples went over the top for an attempted touchdown, the Tigers knocked the ball out and Derrick Birl pounced on it, staving the threat.

“It was huge. I think we lost our leverage a couple of times early. They got a big run early,” Demopolis coach Brian Seymore said. “Our kids got a little penetration right there. I think Fred actually got his hand on the ball and knocked it loose. We got a fumble recovery right there and that got our defense loosened up. Huge play. Probably the play of the game.”

The Volunteers scarcely threatened again. Demopolis found some offensive mojo in the second quarter when Andrew Patterson found Tyquan Alston for a 31-yard gain to help set up a 25-yard field goal by Malaki Simpson, the first of the freshman kicker’s career.

“I saw him in warmups and he was hitting the ball real well,” Seymore said. “For him to step up and knock that thing through showed a lot of character on his part. We needed some points.”

The Tigers found the end zone for the first time on a remarkable catch and run from A.J. Jackson with 2:10 remaining in the first half. The senior tailback hauled in a screen pass and reversed field multiple times to complete the 59-yard touchdown play and put the Tigers up 10-0.

11-17-17 — Demopolis, Ala. — Demopolis’ A.J. Jackson breaks free on a touchdown run in the first half of the Tigers’ victory over Clay Central.

“(Offensive coordinator Matt) Mellown and the offensive staff made a good call right there,” Seymore said. “When you get a good athlete like A.J. in the open field, he has the ability to make a lot of people miss and also has the ability to outrun people.”

Demopolis broke it open early in the fourth quarter when Patterson threw over the top down the left side and dropped it right into the arms of Alston, who sprinted the rest of the way to complete a 90-yard touchdown strike.

“I caught it. I almost went out of bounds. When I caught it, all I could remember was ‘Don’t get caught. Don’t get caught.’ It has happened every time,” Alston, who got his first career touchdown on the play, said in allusion to the multiple plays this season where he has been drug down just feet from the goal line. “I was looking back trying to make sure I didn’t get caught.”

“We give him a lot of crap about getting caught. We call him slow and everything,” Patterson joked. “But he was not getting caught tonight. He turned on those jets and he was gone.”

The play effectively put the game out of reach for Central-Clay.

“It started with the protection. Patty threw a strike. He hit him right in the numbers right there,” Seyomre said. “Tyquan looked it in. He just turned on the jets and tight-roped the sideline right there. That was probably the nail in the coffin right there.”

Alston finished with three receptions for 132 yards. Patterson finished 10 of 19 for 241 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

The Tigers (10-2) travel to Prichard next week to face Vigor in the third round.

11-17-17 — Demopolis, Ala. — Demopolis’ Keionte Whitfield (88) and Alexander Besteder (3) wrap up a Volunteer runner as Derrick Birl (24) closes in during the Tigers’ victory over Clay Central.

11-17-17 — Demopolis, Ala. — Demopolis’ Tyquan Alston secures a pass that he would turn into a touchdown during the Tigers’ victory over Clay Central.

Have Yourself a Day: Senior propels Longhorns to state title series

Austen Day ropes a double in the bottom of the fifth inning to put the game-ending run aboard. Day was 3-for-3 with four RBIs and was effective on the mound in limiting Patrician to two hits.

LINDEN, Ala. – Marengo Academy coach Woodie Beck has sung the praises of senior Austen Day all season. Friday, Day took center stage in propelling the Longhorns to a 10-0 series-clinching victory over Patrician.

Day, who is now 7-1 on the season, faced only 20 batters in five innings while striking out two batters and relinquishing only two hits in the five-inning shutout. Day also helped himself at the plate with a 3-for-3 day that included a homer, a double and four RBIs.

“He has done it all year. He has been clutch for me all year,” Beck said of Day following the win. “The only loss he had was early in the year at Macon-East. Words can’t describe how proud I am of him. He was 3-for-3 at the plate. The kid has just battled all year.”

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Marengo staked the senior starter to a 3-0 lead in the first inning when a Davis Petrey double and a Jacob Beck bunt single preceded a Weldon Aydelott shot that cleared the score board beyond the leftfield fence.

The Longhorns tacked on another run in the second inning when Day helped his own cause with a leadoff homer to push the advantage to 4-0. Marengo hung another three-spot in the bottom of the third with three straight two out singles. Cody Cobb singled in Brad Collins. Day later stepped to the plate and roped a single that plated Dalton Daniels and Cobb to move the lead to 7-0.

“I told them before the game, ‘Champions bounce back.’ They bounced back and played good ball today,” Beck said of his team, which notched 12 hits on the day. “We came in this morning about two hours early and they got in the cage and hit. They were just focused today. I thought focus was the main thing for us today. When they set their mind to something, this group is hard to beat.”

Collins stroked a two-out single in the bottom of the fourth to drive in Petrey and Aydelott for the 9-0 advantage. Marengo capped the scoring in the fifth when Robert Tutt entered the game as a pinch-hitter and singled up the middle to plate courtesy runner Casey Cramer.

In addition to sealing the win, the moment was somewhat poetic for the Longhorns, who lost Tutt to an injury earlier in the season.

“When Robert had that surgery, the doctors told him, ‘You’re done for the year.’ Robert came and told me, ‘Coach, I’m not.’ That just tells you what kind of kids we have here at Marengo,” Beck said. “He has worked his tail off and I am super proud of Robert that he gets to come back. I know he is super excited to be back.”

The win advances Marengo (28-7) to Tuesday’s state championship series with Eastwood.

“I know they’re a really good baseball team. I’ve talked to several coaches,” Beck said. “They do a lot of hit-and-runs. They bunt the ball well. They’ve got a lot of speed. I know one through six, they’re really, really good. I heard that had three really good arms. It’s going to be a good matchup for us and we’re excited to go play them.”

The doubleheader is set to being at 3 p.m. at Paterson Field in Montgomery. The third game would take place Wednesday if needed.

Linden overlooking superlatives in preparation for Maplesville

11-18-16 -- Linden, Ala. -- Charles Blackmon Jr., jukes Georgiana's Clarence Curry (3) in Friday night's game in Linden. Linden won by a final score of 52-12. (WAW | Stewart Gwin)

11-18-16 — Linden, Ala. — Charles Blackmon Jr., jukes Georgiana’s Clarence Curry (3) in Friday night’s game in Linden. Linden won by a final score of 52-12. (WAW | Stewart Gwin)

In 2004, Demopolis High School went 15-0 en route to a Class 4A state championship under head coach Doug Goodwin. An offensive juggernaut, the team’s run remains historic in the annals of Alabama High School football as the 761 points it scored that season continues to hold the record for most in state history.

That record will be under extreme duress Friday night when the Linden Patriots take the field for a Class 1A semifinal matchup against Maplesville. Through 13 games, Linden has scored 750 points good for fourth on the all-time list behind Elba’s 752 (2011) and Fyffe’s 751 (2014). Linden is also one of only 11 teams in state history to eclipse the 700-point mark and the only one of the group to have less than 15 games played. While game No. 14 could vault the Patriots into the top spot in the state record books, the achievement would have far less meaning for the Pats should they fail to punch their ticket to a 15th with a semifinal victory Friday night.

Standing in Linden’s way is the reigning Class 1A state champion, top-ranked Maplesville. The Red Devils will roll into Linden having outscored opponents 607-75 through 12 games and fresh off a 60-34 quarterfinal win over Sweet Water.

“It’s a year-to-year basis. They’re an experienced, veteran football team just like normal,” Linden coach Andro Williams said when asked to compare the 2016 Red Devils with their 2015 predecessors. “They sort of just reload and do what they do. I think they’re more mature than what they’ve been as a team. I think they’re as fast as they’ve ever been and kind of just a team that knows what they want to do. They’ve got some great leaders with the Terence Dunlap and Nathaniel Watson. Those guys are veterans to the game. They know what they want to do and they’re leading their team.”

11-18-16 -- Linden, Ala. -- Xavier McIntosh (14) sacks Georgiana's Jamichael Stallworth (7) in Friday night's game in Linden. Linden won by a final score of 52-12. (WAW | Stewart Gwin)

11-18-16 — Linden, Ala. — Xavier McIntosh (14) sacks Georgiana’s Jamichael Stallworth (7) in Friday night’s game in Linden. Linden won by a final score of 52-12. (WAW | Stewart Gwin)

Dunlap and Watson have been the proverbial bell cows for Maplesville, propelling the Red Devil offense with astronomical numbers all season. Dunlap rushed for 163 yards and three touchdowns last week on only 19 carries while also hauling in a 51-yard touchdown pass. Watson caught three passes for 113 yards and a score in the win over Sweet Water.

“Even with those two guys not on the team, I think they’re still one of the strongest teams in the state,” Williams said. “We know who they are and what they are. We’ve just got to prep ourselves to be who we are and go from there.”

Dunlap grabbed plenty of attention during his junior campaign, that saw him finish as the Alabama Sports Writers Association Class 1A Back of the Year. Selected to the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game earlier this season, Dunlap has continued to wow onlookers and build a career resume largely unmatched.

“He reminds me of Warrick Dunn. He could be that kind of a guy that could have a shot on that level of football because of his mental capacity and what he brings to the table. He is special because of his mental capacity and what he is able to do. He has outworked people to get to the point where he is at. He plays bigger than his demeanor and his stature because of what he has put in. You can tell he has worked his butt off. He is humble in his demeanor. He is disciplined on the field. He has got that ‘it’ factor, but it isn’t just because he has talent. He has got some talent, but he is a guy that is mentally and physically prepped for what he needs to be prepped for on a consistent basis,” Williams said of Dunlap. “I think that makes him the exception to the rule. He is probably one of the better football players that we have been on the field with because of those other intangibles. We talk about being mentally tough and physically tough, he has got all that and more.”

Limiting Dunlap will be a must if Linden is to keep its season going one more week. Dunlap ran for 285 yards and five touchdowns on 26 carries in Maplesville’s 50-19 win over the Patriots a season ago.

“We are definitely not where I want us to be. We’re tickled to be here and still playing right now. A lot of teams could be here playing that are not. We appreciate the opportunity. But, again, we are definitely not where we want to be by any means. Our kids know that. We talked about that this morning,” Williams said. “We haven’t put a complete game together yet. We can definitely play better and work assignment football, just do a better job overall. We’ve just got to keep working and continue to get better as a team. But I really think we can be better than what we’ve played.”

Linden hosts Maplesville Friday night at 7 p.m.

Linden vs. Georgiana (gallery)

Sweet Water runs through McKenzie to second round

(Photo by Johnny Autery) Bulldog DB Braiden Broussard with a solo tackle on Tiger QB Daniel Gaston.

(Photo by Johnny Autery)
Bulldog DB Braiden Broussard with a solo tackle on Tiger QB Daniel Gaston.

Sweet Water took control early and never looked back Friday night en route to a dominant 47-6 Class 1A first round playoff win over McKenzie.

(Photo by Johnny Autery) Bulldog RB R.J. Rogers races to the outside for 1st down yardage against the Tigers.

(Photo by Johnny Autery)
Bulldog RB R.J. Rogers races to the outside for 1st down yardage against the Tigers.

The Bulldogs hung 21 points on the board in the first quarter. Jonah Smith hit Will Huckabee for a 16-yard touchdown pass with 5:39 to go in the frame. Jaylin Johnson then scored on a 22-yard run with 1:08 left before R.J. Rodgers punched it in from the 2 with 11 seconds on the first quarter clock.

Shamar Lewis added a 3-yard touchdown run in the second quarter for the 28-0 lead before Daniel Gaston broke a 72-yard sprint to get McKenzie on the board. The Tigers would have little life beyond that run, which accounted for exactly half of the team’s offense.

Sweet Water added a 30-yard touchdown run from Lewis and a 22-yard run from Rodgers. Lewis capped the scoring by returning an interception for touchdown.

The Bulldogs amassed 385 yards of offense on 50 plays with 344 of those coming on 45 rushing attempts. Sweet Water also forced four McKenzie turnovers.

Johnson led the ground attack with 123 yards and a score on 13 carries. Lewis added 120 yards and two touchdowns on 12 runs. Rodgers finished with 80 yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries. Lewis and Rodgers each intercepted a pass on defense.

Sweet Water (8-2) travels to face Wadley (10-0) in the second round next week.

(Photo by Johnny Autery) Sweet Water’s Houston Norris (87) drags down McKenzie’s Elijah Presley (7).

(Photo by Johnny Autery)
Sweet Water’s Houston Norris (87) drags down McKenzie’s Elijah Presley (7).

Demopolis bows out of quarterfinals

5-6-2016 - Demopolis, Ala. - Jonathan Lewis checks the situation at the plate as he heads into third base in game two against Rehobeth.

5-6-2016 – Demopolis, Ala. – Jonathan Lewis checks the situation at the plate as he heads into third base in game two against Rehobeth.

Demopolis (18-10) saw its season come to an end Friday night with a third round Class 5A playoff sweep at the hands of Rehobeth. The Tigers lost game one 7-4 before falling 13-10 in the second contest.

“I thought we got a lot of mileage out of them. I really did. And I think that’s a direct result of leadership,” Demopolis coach James Moody said of the campaign his Tigers had in 2016. “They got a little taste of it late and went with it. We just ran out of bullets tonight. But the effort that we got out of our kids, no one can say anything about because we got max effort out of them with what they were capable of doing.”

5-6-2016 - Demopolis, Ala. - Chandler Barton starts off game two against Rehobeth.

5-6-2016 – Demopolis, Ala. – Chandler Barton starts off game two against Rehobeth.

The Tigers fell into an early 4-0 hole in game one before Hunter Colyar settled in and struck out 11 batters over seven innings to keep the game close.

Demopolis scored three runs without the benefit of a hit in the bottom of the sixth inning to cut the deficit to 4-3. Demetrius Davis, Chandler Barton and Wesley Holemon took advantage of three Rehobeth errors to score in the inning. The Rebels fired back with a three-run seventh to stretch the lead to 7-3.

R.J. Cox broke up the no-hit bid with two outs in the seventh when he singled in Davis to make it 7-4.

Demopolis jumped on Rehobeth early in game two, scoring four runs in the first inning. Jacob Rodrigues singled home Barton. Luke Yelverton then doubled in Rodrigues and Jonathon Lewis. Wesley Allgood scored on a wild pitch.

Rehobeth scored a run in the first and another in the second to make it 4-2 before Jamarcus Ezell got both of them back with a double in the third that plated Lewis and Andrew Patterson.

Rehobeth added another run in the fourth before unleashing for five runs in the fifth to take the 8-6 lead.

5-6-2016 - Demopolis, Ala. - Luke Yelverton goes opposite field for a hit in game two against Rehobeth.

5-6-2016 – Demopolis, Ala. – Luke Yelverton goes opposite field for a hit in game two against Rehobeth.

Demopolis wasted no time getting back in it in the sixth as Rodrigues singled home Colyar before Lewis drove in Charles Casper with a hit.

The Tigers were unable to make the lead stand up in the bottom of the sixth as Rehobeth scored five more times for the 13-8 lead. Colyar singled home Ezell and Barton in the seventh to make it 13-10. The Tigers managed to get the tying run to the plate but could not complete the rally.

“They bought in to every pitch, every inning, every game. If we can get that mindset here and get them to play game one like that and the last game like that, I think it puts them in a mode where they’re competing a lot harder,” Moody, whose team made it to the quarterfinals for the first time in 11 years, said. “I thought we did an excellent job, especially in the playoffs, of doing that.”

Demopolis ends its season at 18-10. Rehobeth (30-9) moves to the Class 5A semi-finals to face the winner of Faith Academy and Helena.

5-6-2016 - Demopolis, Ala. - Jamacus Ezell knocks a little dirt off the ball in game one against Rehobeth.

5-6-2016 – Demopolis, Ala. – Jamacus Ezell knocks a little dirt off the ball in game one against Rehobeth.

Friday’s double-header marked the end of the Demopolis High careers of seniors Jamarcus Ezell, Wesley Holemon, Jacob Rodrigues and Luke Yelverton.

“They’ve been a part of turning it around, of advancing it in the playoffs. They’re all good kids. They’re all very coachable kids. Some of them had career years this year, especially at the plate,” Moody said of the departing quartet. “The character that they showed all year and the leadership of leading our guys every single day, I think it showed up in the end.”

Moody also pointed to the important roles that the sophomores and juniors on his roster played during the 2016 season, a group whose experience is amplified significantly by having been to the state quarterfinals.

5-6-2016 - Demopolis, Ala. - Chandler Barton loads up to throw out a runner in game one against Rehobeth.

5-6-2016 – Demopolis, Ala. – Chandler Barton loads up to throw out a runner in game one against Rehobeth.

“I don’t think you can put a price on being at that stage and for them to see that. And some of that got us tonight. But, there again, the bar has been set and they know where they have to get to and what it takes to get there. That’s the biggest thing. And the thing that I’m probably, as much as anything, proud about with them is they are a team. They care about each other. They get along with each other. They love each other. They fuss at each other when they need to and, at the end of the day, that’s what matters. That’s what matters because the traits they’re learning doing those things are what they’re going to have to do in life to survive,” Moody said. “We talked to them as a coaching staff about it all the time. I still, to this day, when you wake up those days and everything is going wrong, what do you go back to? All I know to go back to is athletics. All I know to do is put my nose down and go to work. I think that those kids, those seniors especially, have that trait in them.”

5-6-2016 - Demopolis, Ala. - Jacob Rodrigues puts the ball in play in game one against Rehobeth.

5-6-2016 – Demopolis, Ala. – Jacob Rodrigues puts the ball in play in game one against Rehobeth.

Demopolis sweeps Marbury to move to quarterfinals

4-23-2016 - Demopolis, Ala. - Luke Yelverton drives in a run in game one against Marbury.

4-23-2016 – Demopolis, Ala. – Luke Yelverton drives in a run in game one against Marbury.

Demopolis (18-8) is headed to the quarterfinals of the state baseball playoffs for the first time since 2005 after sweeping Marbury 7-6, 2-0 Friday night.

“It’s very humbling to me to be a part of that. It’s all about the kids. The kids play the game. The kids win the game. It’s a credit to a lot of teams in the past that were close and didn’t get over that hump,” Demopolis coach James Moody said. “I think the thing about his bunch is that nobody much gave them a chance. I’ll be honest with you. We had a freshman and a sophomore in that game and everybody is just stepping up. It’s huge for our program. It’s big for our school and our community. It really is.”

4-23-2016 - Demopolis, Ala. - Chandler Barton attempts to snag a high throw in game one against Marbury. Jamacus Ezell would catch the ball on the tip.

4-23-2016 – Demopolis, Ala. – Chandler Barton attempts to snag a high throw in game one against Marbury. Jamacus Ezell would catch the ball on the tip.

The Tigers clinched the series on the strength of a strong pitching performance from senior Luke Yelverton. The Spring Hill signee tossed seven shutout innings in game two, striking out nine batters and scattering three hits in the 2-0 win. Yelverton also ignited the two-run rally that proved the difference in the contest when he singled to start the fifth inning before giving way to courtesy runner Wesley Allgood.

As Jamarcus Ezell dropped a sacrifice bunt and hustled down the line, Marbury threw the ball into foul territory to advance Allgood to third base. As Marbury threw to third to try to nail Allgood, the throw sailed into foul territory again, allowing him to score. After a Demetrius Davis sacrifice bunt, Chandler Barton skied a fly ball to left to plate Ezell for the 2-0 lead.

“We kind of started this one just like we did last week game two. We just kind of got up there and we really weren’t focusing on our (at-bats) and, next thing you know, it’s fourth or fifth inning,” Moody said of his team, which had only five hits in the contest. “You kind of got to reel them back in. It’s always something small. It’s something small like a bunt that makes a difference.”

4-23-2016 - Demopolis, Ala. - Ryan Morrison came on in relief in game one against Marbury.

4-23-2016 – Demopolis, Ala. – Ryan Morrison came on in relief in game one against Marbury.

The win brought a measure of vindication for the Tigers, who felt embarrassed a season ago when they traveled to Marbury and were swept in the second round of a series that included a 12-2 rout.

“We actually put a picture up in the locker room that a girl from Marbury had posted (on social media). It’s a picture that said, ‘Did the Tigers even show up?’ Every day when we headed out to practice, it was a picture that we saw,” Yelverton said. “Of course we want to go past this, but that’s what we were building up to was this game right here and it couldn’t be bigger.”

The Tigers opened the night flat, falling to a 6-1 deficit in game one before rallying back for a 7-6 win. Yelverton gave his team a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second when he doubled in Jonathon Lewis.

“He has done a great job for us all year. He has really worked hard on shortening his swing and just letting the barrel to the work for him. When he does that, he does things like he did tonight,” Moody said of Yelverton.

Yelverton, who had four hits in the series, drew a pair of intentional walks for Marbury on the night, signaling a considerable change from a season ago when the Tigers often pinch-hit for him.

“Big progress on the mound and, obviously, the progress at the plate that he demands that attention,” Moody said of Yelverton. “He’s hitting in the seventh hole. My high school coach talked to me about eight or 10 years ago. He said, ‘Coach, go back through your book at the end of the year and look at your seven hole hitter and how many times he comes up with runners in scoring position. It’s a crucial spot in the lineup. And it’s proving true right now.”

“It meant a lot. I’m finally starting to hit the ball a little bit, which all the credit goes to the coaches,” Yelverton said. “They’ve changed a lot of stuff with me. They’ve got me seeing the ball a little bit better and I couldn’t do it without them.”

4-23-2016 - Demopolis, Ala. - Luke Yelverton strikes out a batter in game two against Marbury.

4-23-2016 – Demopolis, Ala. – Luke Yelverton strikes out a batter in game two against Marbury.

The Tigers’ 1-0 lead proved short-lived as Marbury scored four runs in the third and one in the fourth to take a 5-1 advantage. The Bulldogs added another in the fifth inning for the 6-1 advantage before the Tigers brought in junior hurler Ryan Morrison. Facing a bases-loaded situation with one out in the inning, Morrison induced a fly ball and struck out another batter to hold the game there.

In the bottom of the sixth, the Tigers scratched out a pair of runs when Davis stroked a single through the right side to plate Yelverton and Wesley Holemon, cutting the deficit to 6-3.

The Tigers scored three runs with one out in the bottom of the seventh to extend the game. R.J. Cox reached on an error to start the rally and gave way to courtesy runner Andrew Patterson. Jacob Rodrigues then singled and gave way to pinch runner Charles Casper. Lewis singled to load the bases. Morrison then stroked a fly ball to center that likely would have been deep enough to score Patterson from third before it caromed off the glove of the Marbury defender. Patterson and Casper scored on the play to cut it to 6-5. Yelverton tied the game by singling to right to plate Lewis.

Demopolis used a pair of errors to get runners on in the ninth before Marbury intentionally walked Yelverton to load the bases and pitch to Ezell. The Tiger senior stroked the walk-off single up the middle to plate Lewis and win the game.

“We just kept competing and putting the ball in play. We got some big hits in some big situations. There’s no quit in them against a very good baseball team,” Moody said.

4-23-2016 - Demopolis, Ala. - Luke Yelverton (22) watches as Jamarcus Ezell dives back to tag out a runner in game two against Marbury.

4-23-2016 – Demopolis, Ala. – Luke Yelverton (22) watches as Jamarcus Ezell dives back to tag out a runner in game two against Marbury.

Morrison worked four and two-thirds innings of one-hit baseball in relief, picking up the win while facing the minimum amount of batters.

“Outstanding job. Unbelievable. He treated the game as if it was 0-0,” Moody said of Morrison. “I talk to our guys about the importance of people that don’t start the game coming in and making a difference in the game. He took that to heart, I believe. That’s as fine a job in a pressure situation as I can ask for.”

For Moody, the comeback signals a significant maturation for his team only a season after it finished 13-15.

“I think it’s a tribute to them and the focus that they brought to the park and that they’ve thought about all year long. I think what happened to us last year in a losing effort really benefited us. I think it showed tonight,” Moody said. “Even when we got down 6-1, I don’t know if anybody thinks we come back, especially when they put their one on the hill. But they never panicked. As long as you’ve got kids battling like that, the sky’s the limit what you can do.”

Demopolis is set to face the winner of the Rehobeth and Charles Henderson series in the quarterfinals. The Tigers would travel to Charles Henderson but would host Rehobeth.

4-23-2016 - Demopolis, Ala. - R.J. Cox gets a base hit in game two against Marbury.

4-23-2016 – Demopolis, Ala. – R.J. Cox gets a base hit in game two against Marbury.

Marengo Academy season ends in semifinals (with gallery)

IMG_6117ELMORE — Marengo Academy’s tremendous season came to a halt in the Class AA semifinals Wednesday as the Longhorns were swept by Edgewood.

Marengo lost the opener 10-0, surrendering eight runs during a fourth inning that was delayed more than two hours by thunderstorms. The Longhorns mustered a single hit in the game on a first inning double by Hayden Huckabee.

The Longhorns committed five errors in the game while walking four batters and plunking two. Edgewood needed only five hits to complete the skunking.

Marengo battled back from an early 4-0 deficit in the second game to briefly take a lead before falling 12-8.

“Hats off to Marengo too. With the way lost the first game and they battled back and fought the way they did,” Edgewood coach Bobby Carr said. “Especially when they went down 4-0, they could have easily kicked their lip, walked around and finished the game, but it says a lot about their program and the character of their kids and their coaching staff.”

Weldon Aydelott drove in Caleb Broadhead in the third inning to get the first run on the board. David Dunn then drew a walk to push Huckabee home and cut the deficit to 4-2.

After Edgewood added a run in the top of the fourth, the Longhorns posted a five-run, two-out rally to take a 7-5 lead. Aydelott singled in Huckabee and Robert Tutt. Cody Cobb and Daniel Pritchett scored on an error off the bat of Brad Collins to put Marengo on top. Collins then scored on a throwing error to add to the lead.

“They’ve been that way all year. Same way in football. They battle, battle, battle. I can’t ask for more out of them,” Marengo coach Woddie Beck said. “They did everything I asked them to do. They just come up short. I hate it for these guys Great group of guys and I hate it for them. I really do.”

The excitement proved short lived for the Longhorns as Edgewood used three errors, three walks and one hit to score five runs and take command in the fifth.

Andrew Martin scored the final Longhorn run of the season in the bottom of the fifth when he stroked the first pitch he saw for a triple and scored as an errant throw went into the Edgewood dugout.

“This has been a very fun group to coach. They’ve battled tooth and nail. I hate it for these seniors. Best group of kids I’ve ever coached. Heart. Desire. You couldn’t ask for more,” Beck said. “Again, I hate for it to end this way for the seniors, but we did have a good year. We finished the year at 25-3 and that’s a tribute to them.”

Edgewood (35-7) will seek its eighth straight state championship next week. The win would give the Wildcats the state record for most consecutive state titles at any level, a record currently held by Vestavia Hills. The Wildcats have been to the state finals 13 of the 15 seasons of Carr’s tenure.