Setting a Super Six record for carries in a game and coming within 14 yards of Lee Cagle's record for rushing yards in a game, James punished the Russellville defense from start to finish to earn MVP honors. Coach Tom Causey said that is what James has done all season and he delivered when his team needed it most.
"No disrespect to anybody they (Russellville) faced this year, but you don't have a true appreciation for what he does until you actually see it," Causey said. "You can't get that on film. The offensive line did a great job. The strength of Russellville is their front seven. They are dang good. We knew we were going to have to take our shots when we could. (42 carries) that's an average night for him."
James outshined fellow junior running back Brent Calloway from Russellville. Although he had 142 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries, Calloway was definitely second fiddle to James as Demopolis won its first state title in 5A and first since 2004 in any classification. Russellville is now 0-5 all-time in the Super Six with the loss.
In the first half the story was James. In 24 minutes the big guy carried the ball 24 times for 201 yards and a touchdown to help his team to the early lead.
After failing to gain a first down on its first drive, Demopolis turned to the big back and he came through the second time around. On the first carry he ripped off 21 yards. He would add eight more carries on the drive as Demopolis drove 54 yards to the Russellville 12-yard line, but a field goal attempt was blocked to keep the game scoreless.
Back to back interceptions put Russellville back on the field with the ball on its own 48 where Howe would take to the air. He hit tight end Mason Willis for 12 and 14 yards while Calloway added 17 yards on the ground before a five-yard run found pay dirt. The extra point made it 7-0 Golden Tigers.
Following a 39-yard kickoff return by Jeremy Wallace, Demopolis turned to James and he punched it in. Runs of 31 and 13 yards put the Tigers in the end zone and tied the game at seven. He would again be the man on the next drive for Demopolis as the Tigers took over on its own one-yard line.
Running the ball 11 times on the drive, including seven times in a row, James moved his team all the way to the Russellville five where they faced a fourth and three. His final carry on the drive ended in a two-yard loss and Russellville took over on downs.
James prepares to lower the boom on a Russellville defender.
Getting the ball back on its own 40 following a punt, Demopolis got 12 yards on a James carry to set up Pettus with an opportunity to throw deep late in the half. With under a minute left in the half, the quarterback hit Larry Cobb in stride for a 48-yard score to put Demopolis up 13-7 at the half.
James and his teammates continued their strong play in the third quarter, but first it was the defense that came up big. Russellville took the opening drive of the second half and behind the running of Calloway moved the ball to the Demopolis 33, but on third down Howe's pass was intercepted by Michael Davis.
Setting up shop at their own 39, the Demopolis Tigers used the legs of James to move to the Russellville 38. One play and a penalty later Demopolis faced a third and seven from the 41, but Pettus was cool as a cucumber as he hit Wallace for 59 yards and the score. The two-point conversion failed leaving Demopolis up 19-7.
Doug Goodwin's Russellville squad wasn't done just yet though as it marched right down the field on the next drive with Calloway running for 65 yards on four carries. The final two yards went for his second touchdown and the extra point brought Russellville to within five at 19-14.
Things appeared to be going Russellville's way as Wallace fumbled the kickoff and the Golden Tigers recovered on the Demopolis 30-yard line. It took just two plays to take the wind out of their sails though as Howe hit Ryan Romans on a pass, but Anthony Hardy took the ball away and raced 74 yards for a touchdown. That gave Demopolis a 25-14 lead. James tacked on a two-point conversion to make it a 13-point advantage.
Russellville didn't give in though as they blocked a Demopolis punt with just under seven minutes left in the game and took over on the plus 31-yard line. The drive ended in just four plays as the Golden Tigers failed to get a first down. James then took over as he ran out all but the final 48 seconds on the clock to seal the win.