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The Demopolis Tigers rolled into Cottondale on Friday to face off against Paul W. Bryant High School in the Stampede's homecoming game. The Tigers went on to dominate Bryant in every facet of the game imaginable and outscore them 74-16, leading coach Eldrick Hill to share some very bleak, but very honest, opinions of the state of his program.

"Just been a rough year. We're young, got a lot of injuries, and it's just been a rough year," said Hill after the game. "We're not as strong as we need to be. We're not as physical as we need to be. We used to pride ourselves on being a year round program, but since the COVID, we just haven't been able to get back on track."

Things started off reasonably competitive. Demopolis got things going with a combination of bruising runs from senior running back Kelvin Rowser and passes from junior quarterback Kevin McElroy that led to Rowser punching it in from 20 yards out.

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When the Stampede offense took the field, it was led by yet another new face. Hill said junior tight end/linebacker Edwin Merriweather was probably the fifth string quarterback on the team, but a combination of injuries, understanding of the offense, and his leadership led to him getting the starting nod tonight.

Merriweather completed one of his first two passes, but was intercepted on a tipped ball on the third attempt, giving Demopolis the ball on Bryant's 22-yard line.

Senior running back Dexter Boston then made short work of the Stampede defense and ran it in on the ensuing snap, making the score 14-0.

Bryant moved the ball well on the following drive, but turned it over on downs on the Tiger 13-yard line rather than attempting a field goal. On the very next play, McElroy made a very athletic play from outside the pocket to get the ball to junior Daylan Jackson, who took it all the way to the house. McElroy made the pass while stumbling after being chased out of the pocket and nearly sacked on a forceful shove by a Bryant pass rusher.

Then the Stampede came to life. Oscillating back and forth between the outside speed of senior running back Kevin Brown and the inside power of junior Dontae Blake, Bryant drove down the field with confidence. From the 26-yard line, Merriweather perfectly placed a pass into the outstretched hands of junior Joshua Hines, who immediately pivoted and jogged into the end zone.

Hill and his squad broke out the trickery next and successfully converted an onside kick to retain possession of the ball. A massive run by Brown put the Stampede in the red zone, and freshman kicker Diego Marquez drilled a 34-yard field goal to make the score 21-10.

This was the closest the game got.

Following another Tigers scoring drive, Bryant managed to move the ball again. This time, through the air. A big defensive pass interference call set the Stampede up on the Demopolis 41-yard line. Then, like so many other plays throughout the evening, Merriweather had a pass tipped. However, it rather than hitting the ground or being intercepted, it was tipped behind both secondary players in the area into the arms of senior Raheem Lewis, who had no one behind him and went all the way for a touchdown.

That was the last time Bryant scored on the evening, but Demopolis had no intentions of slowing down. Instead, they put their foot right on the Stampede's throat.

Demopolis marched down the field on their ensuing possession and handed the ball off to Rowser from seven yards out for another score. On the very first play of the Stampede's next drive, sophomore Austin Wright intercepted Merriweather's pass on a tipped ball at the Bryant 19-yard line.

On the following play, Keishawn Rowser punched the ball into the end zone.

The Demopolis defense did its thing again on the next Bryant possession, forcing and recovering a fumble at the Stampede 35. The Tigers went back to the ground game and Kelvin Rowser scored again, this time from 27 yards out.

At this point in the game, things were getting out of hand for Paul W. Bryant. It was 48-16 with four minutes left in the first half. They really needed to run the ball and chew clock on their next possession. They did not.

Demopolis got the ball back with a little under two minutes to play until halftime and McElroy went into two-minute mode. He effectively balanced distributing the ball to a handful of different receivers with scrambling for yards the defense was giving him, while also making sure his team hustled up to the line and got plays off in time when they handed the ball off. Defensive pass interference and unsportsmanlike conduct flags on the same play helped to set McElroy up for a touchdown pass to Nate Azariah. The point after made the score 55-16 heading into the break.

Following the intermission period, Kelvin Rowser and the Demopolis offense got right back to work. After stopping the Stampede attack and forcing a punt, the Tigers handed the ball off to Rowser who exploded for a 45-yard touchdown run.

On the next Stampede possession, Merriweather was intercepted again. Keishawn Rowser, not to be outdone by his team mate, also rattled off an immediate touchdown run, making the score 67-16. Junior running back Antonio Cox capped the evening off with a 4-yard touchdown run.

Hill said after the game, he really just wants to see his team get back on track.

"We have four games remaining, so we have to continue working hard like we've been doing," said Hill. "It's finishing the season, hopefully finishing on a high note, and man the day after that season we working out the next day.

Coach Brian Seymour of the other team, however, was quite happy.

"Probably the best the offense played the whole year," said Seymour. "I thought the offense really executed well in the passing game and the run game. We had some explosive plays offensively and really did a good job of finishing drives."

Paul W. Bryant hosts Hueytown next week, while Demopolis hosts Shelby County.


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