Shelby County ends season with loss to Demopolis

The curtain fell on another remarkable season for the Shelby County High School Wildcats with a 26-20 double-overtime loss Friday night to the visiting Dempolis Tigers in the first round of the Alabama High School Athletic Association Class 5A playoffs.

The Wildcats now look to build upon the past two seasons, which could arguably be considered two of the best years in school history. Shelby County capped a two-year regular season stretch with a combined 19-1 record.

“Our kids fought hard tonight,” said Shelby County head coach Ryan Herring. “They gave us a chance to win the game and that is all you can ask for.”

It was a cat fight between two familiar playoff foes as the Tigers came to Columbiana looking to end the Wildcats’ season for a second year in a row. DeMarcus James set his team on the right track when he cruised down the sideline for 80 yards to put the Tigers on top 7-0 midway through the first quarter.

The grudge match continued into the second quarter with the Wildcats facing a fourth-and-6 from the Tigers’ 14-yard line. A half-back pass from Chad King hit Kevin McNorton in the back of the end zone to knot the score at 7-7 late in the first half.

Time pressed on in the second half with the Wildcats having prime real estate in Demopolis territory. However, a fumble at the 7-yard line and an interception at the 32-yard line stopped all the Shelby County momentum.

After the takeaway by DeAndre Harris, the Tigers marched down the turf on a seven-play scoring drive just before the half. Michael Davis stomped in from the Wildcats’ 8-yard line.

The Wildcats bent, but didn’t break in the first half to only trail 14-7 at the midway point.

After a Demopolis four-and-out series to open the second half, the Wildcats’ offense was gelling. Reeling off four first downs in as many plays, the home team found its’ swagger. Yet, a King pass fell into the hands of a Demopolis defender shortly thereafter.

When the turnover bug hit the Wildcats, it hit with a vengeance Friday night as the final tally totaled five, including two fumbles in the fourth quarter. Yet, despite those setbacks, the Wildcats’ defense kept clawing away and kept the game within reach.

It wasn’t until late into the fourth quarter that the defense was paid its’ due. With half a quarter remaining, it looked to be the Wildcats’ last shot. All those in attendance at Papa McCombs Stadium Friday night saw the Wildcats’ season fall hanging on the outcome of a fourth-and-11 from the Tigers’ 23-yard line.

The stadium erupted when Braten Dill threw a dart to Tae Lewis across the middle for the score. With five minutes left the play, the Wildcats had new life with the game tied 14-14.

As time ticked down to the final seconds, the Wildcats’ season was at the mercy of the Tigers’ placekicker on a 29-yard field-goal attempt. Call it luck, fate, or just typical playoff football, but a botched snap would send the game into overtime.

The Tigers wasted no time, scoring in the first overtime period as Davis took it in on the first play from scrimmage. A blocked point-after-touchdown attempt gave the Tigers a 20-14 lead.

On the following Shelby County series, Dill found Josh Reid for a clutch touchdown toss from the 13-yard line. However, a failed point-after-attempt would send the game into double overtime tied 20-20.

The Wildcats failed to convert on their next series and James shut the door on the Wildcats’ season with a 3-yard touchdown run.

The Wildcats used up every lifeline they had Friday night, and despite having five turnovers, they had a chance to win the game in the end. The Wildcats persevered and didn’t give up when adversity hit them hard, Herring said.

“The thing I am happy about is that we didn’t quit,” Herring said. “We had so many situations where one of them could have broken our back, but the kids never quit playing. That is the sign of playing with heart and that is what I am most proud of.”

The Wildcats finished the night with 157 yards through the air. Denzel Williams led all rushers with 66 yards. Dill threw for 143 yards and two touchdowns with one interception. McNorton finished with 84 receiving yards and a touchdown.

Demopolis tallied 277 yards rushing on 47 carries and 41 yards through the air.