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Unbeaten Tigers claim crown with 28-7 win over Demopolis

Never mind that Greenville was No. 4 in the state and Demopolis was ranked No. 6.

Never mind that the game was for the Class 5A, Region 3 championship.

Never mind that Greenville was unbeaten and Demopolis was spoiling for the upset.

It all came back to last year: Demopolis 48, Greenville 41. The Tigers had that game well in hand in the second half, at one point leading 34-19, but collapsed down the stretch under a flurry of Demopolis touchdowns.

What a difference a year makes.

Greenville led 17-0 at halftime, held off a Demopolis rally in the third quarter, and won 28-7 to claim its first region championship since 1997 on Friday night in Tiger Stadium.

“You know what, I’m happy for this town because they’re getting to embrace football and we’re having some success,” said GHS head coach Ben Blackmon. “This town is coming out and supporting these kids. A lot of people don’t know what these kids go through and how we push them. It feels good to be supported by these fans…each and every one of them.”

The Tigers were led, as they have been all season, by a relentless running game that lives off misdirection and physical play by the offensive line.

Demopolis head coach Tom Causey said his players didn’t match Greenville in the trenches.

“They out hit us tonight,” said Causey. “They beat us at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the football. They deserved to win…they outplayed us and out coached us.”

Greenville drove down the field on its second possession of the game, but turned the ball over on downs to Demopolis at the eight-yard line. But Kenneth Carter forced a Demopolis fumble and Daron Mack recovered for Tigers. Two plays later, Smith scored on a one-yard touchdown run and GHS led 7-0. Stewart Moody added a 22-yard field goal in the second quarter for the Tigers.

Then Patrick Bedgood, quite possibly, made the play of the game.

The Tigers were in scoring position with one minute left before halftime. Smith couldn’t connect with Bedgood on the option pitch and the junior running back picked the ball up on the bounce. Bedgood skirted the sideline, broke several tackles, and scored on a 13-yard run.

“We worked all week on the quick pitch,” said Blackmon. “It was a bad pitch, but we practice that. Patrick knows how to recover it and if he gets a clean bounce he can still run it. That was a big play.”

Bedgood said the practice paid off.

“I thank my boys for blocking for me…if they hadn’t been there I wouldn’t have gotten it in,” he said.

Moody added a 34-yard field goal in the third quarter, making it 20-0, and it appeared the Tigers had the game well in hand.

But back came Demopolis. The Demopolis offense, stifled by Greenville in the first half, strung together a pair of first downs as quarterback Ben Pettus connected with Athony Hardy to move the ball to the GHS 49-yard line. It was the first time the visiting Tigers had crossed midfield in the game.

An offside penalty and pass interference penalty against the Tigers put Demopolis in scoring position and Pettus found a streaking Larry Cobb for a 25-yard touchdown with three minutes left in the third.

20-7 Greenville. With still plenty of time left for Demopolis to mount a comeback.

Blackmon was having visions of last season.

“It was in the back of my mind,” he said. “But I just told myself to stay calm and call the ball game.”

But then Smith tried to find Mikwese Claybourne on a deep pass and Hardy intercepted the ball for Demopolis.

Greenville’s defense, however, rose to the challenge. The Tigers stuffed a pass play by Pettus on fourth and four yards to go at the Demopolis 38-yard line.

Greenville’s (8-0) offense didn’t score, but after Moody pinned Demopolis (6-2) back at the five-yard line with a punt, GHS cornerback Brett Boutwell picked off a Pettus pass, which led to a one-yard touchdown by Smith.

Greenville travels to play Chilton County next week.

The Tigers first round playoff game, in three weeks, will be at home.