Look back over Opelika High School’s year in sports

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By D. Mark Mitchell
Winter sports were in full swing as January 2018 arrived. Opelika hosted rival Auburn in basketball with the Lady Bulldogs winning 66-50 and the boys losing a buzzer-beater 53-51.
Several deaths hit Opelika in January, as longtime personal friend and OHS alum Roscoe Thomas went to be with the Lord Jan. 15. A day later, Alabama House District 83 representative and Opelika resident George” Tootie” Bandy died after complications from an auto accident.
In education news, Opelika’s City Council appointed Tipi Miller as the fifth member of the Opelika City School Board.
Headed into February, the OHS girls and boys basketball teams won the area regular season title and the area tournament championship. Opelika citizens overwhelmingly voted to renew the 30-year-old tax that provides more than $2 million to Opelika City Schools.
The OHS basketball teams headed to the regionals at Alabama State University in Montgomery after winning sub-regional games. The boys lost a close game in the regionals in Montgomery to end their season. The Lady Bulldogs won the regional tournament with two wins and advanced to the Final 54 in Birmingham.
Then OHS Coach Caleb Ross resigned after a 9-4 season to become the head football coach at 7A Prattville. Caleb and Amy Ross graduated from Prattville High and both sets of parents reside in the city.
One day later, OCS Superintendent Dr. Mark Neighbors introduced Erik Speakman as the next head football coach at a rare press conference at the school’s indoor football facility. This was the first press conference at OHS introducing a head coach since 2010 when Scott Sullivan was introduced as head baseball coach. Speakman remained AD until the end of the school year.
Spring sports: baseball, tennis, track, softball, golf and soccer started their season. These sports competed for two months until the playoffs began.
The baseball team won the area title and advanced to the second round of the 6A playoffs. OHS’s boys and girls soccer teams won the area regular season title and hosted a first-round playoff game.
OHS’s softball program completed its season with a run in the tournament.
The boys and girls track teams made the AHSAA State Meet in Gulf Shores. The two teams finished in the top-10. The boys and girls tennis teams enjoyed a solid year but did not win any titles.
OHS announced Mike Pugh as its new athletic director May 24. The former OHS basketball coach returned to the school in a part-time role.
After 37 years as “Voice of the Opelika Bulldogs,” OHS announcer and commentator D. Mark Mitchell was relieved of his radio duties by Neighbors and the OCS Board. Van Riggs and Spence McCracken replaced the former football broadcast team of Coach Larry Gore, Mitchell and Jeff Sasser.
OHS’s baseball coach Nick Richardson resigned after two successful seasons to become the head baseball coach at Tuscaloosa County. Assistant Coach Zach Blatt was elevated to head coach the following week.
Coach Billy Kinard, former OHS defensive coordinator under Coach Doug Barfield, died June 30.
The Opelika Dixie Boys baseball All-Star Team won the State Tournament, advancing to the World Series in Bossier City, Louisiana. The Opelika Dixie Youth Ozone All-stars finished runner-up behind Auburn.
As August approached, iHeart Radio hosted the first “Kicker High School Media Days” presented by the Orthopaedic Clinic. This event kicked off the start of football and also explained the “new” high school replay rule. The AHSAA was the first governing athletics body in the country to use instant replay during the regular season.
Opelika finished 7-5 under first-year Coach Erik Speakman. The Bulldogs tied for the region title and advanced to the quarterfinals before losing to Saraland.
The AHSAA Super 7 football Championship was held at Auburn University’s Jordan-Hare Stadium. More than 52,000 fans paid to attend the seven games, with one on Wednesday and three on Thursday and Friday. The event is a joint partnership between the cities of Opelika and Auburn along with the university. Congratulations to Central High School and Coach Jamey Dubose for winning the 7A Championship.
Other noteworthy events in 2018 included: Robert Maddox retiring from coaching at Lee-Scott Academy, Mike Glisson being hired as Smiths Station’s football coach, Beulah winning eight games in a season and hosting a playoff game, Auburn High School Athletic Director Clay McCall retiring from ACS and Tommie Agee leaving the City of Opelika Parks and Recreation Department to take a similar position with the CIty of Andalusia.
As I wrote earlier, several tragic deaths happened in 2018, including the passing of educator Dr. John Meals, longtime friend Sharron Robinson Fuller and several relatives.
I hope each and every one of our readers and subscribers has a wonderful 2019!
D. Mark Mitchell is sports director for iHeart Media, Alabama Dixie Boys state director and vice president of the A-O Sports Council.


Winter sports were in full swing as January 2018 arrived. Opelika hosted rival Auburn in basketball with the Lady Bulldogs winning 66-50 and the boys losing a buzzer-beater 53-51.
Several deaths hit Opelika in January, as longtime personal friend and OHS alum Roscoe Thomas went to be with the Lord Jan. 15. A day later, Alabama House District 83 representative and Opelika resident George” Tootie” Bandy died after complications from an auto accident.
In education news, Opelika’s City Council appointed Tipi Miller as the fifth member of the Opelika City School Board.
Headed into February, the OHS girls and boys basketball teams won the area regular season title and the area tournament championship. Opelika citizens overwhelmingly voted to renew the 30-year-old tax that provides more than $2 million to Opelika City Schools.
The OHS basketball teams headed to the regionals at Alabama State University in Montgomery after winning sub-regional games. The boys lost a close game in the regionals in Montgomery to end their season. The Lady Bulldogs won the regional tournament with two wins and advanced to the Final 54 in Birmingham.
Then OHS Coach Caleb Ross resigned after a 9-4 season to become the head football coach at 7A Prattville. Caleb and Amy Ross graduated from Prattville High and both sets of parents reside in the city.
One day later, OCS Superintendent Dr. Mark Neighbors introduced Erik Speakman as the next head football coach at a rare press conference at the school’s indoor football facility. This was the first press conference at OHS introducing a head coach since 2010 when Scott Sullivan was introduced as head baseball coach. Speakman remained AD until the end of the school year.
Spring sports: baseball, tennis, track, softball, golf and soccer started their season. These sports competed for two months until the playoffs began.
The baseball team won the area title and advanced to the second round of the 6A playoffs. OHS’s boys and girls soccer teams won the area regular season title and hosted a first-round playoff game.
OHS’s softball program completed its season with a run in the tournament.
The boys and girls track teams made the AHSAA State Meet in Gulf Shores. The two teams finished in the top-10. The boys and girls tennis teams enjoyed a solid year but did not win any titles.
OHS announced Mike Pugh as its new athletic director May 24. The former OHS basketball coach returned to the school in a part-time role.
After 37 years as “Voice of the Opelika Bulldogs,” OHS announcer and commentator D. Mark Mitchell was relieved of his radio duties by Neighbors and the OCS Board. Van Riggs and Spence McCracken replaced the former football broadcast team of Coach Larry Gore, Mitchell and Jeff Sasser.
OHS’s baseball coach Nick Richardson resigned after two successful seasons to become the head baseball coach at Tuscaloosa County. Assistant Coach Zach Blatt was elevated to head coach the following week.
Coach Billy Kinard, former OHS defensive coordinator under Coach Doug Barfield, died June 30.
The Opelika Dixie Boys baseball All-Star Team won the State Tournament, advancing to the World Series in Bossier City, Louisiana. The Opelika Dixie Youth Ozone All-stars finished runner-up behind Auburn.
As August approached, iHeart Radio hosted the first “Kicker High School Media Days” presented by the Orthopaedic Clinic. This event kicked off the start of football and also explained the “new” high school replay rule. The AHSAA was the first governing athletics body in the country to use instant replay during the regular season.
Opelika finished 7-5 under first-year Coach Erik Speakman. The Bulldogs tied for the region title and advanced to the quarterfinals before losing to Saraland.
The AHSAA Super 7 football Championship was held at Auburn University’s Jordan-Hare Stadium. More than 52,000 fans paid to attend the seven games, with one on Wednesday and three on Thursday and Friday. The event is a joint partnership between the cities of Opelika and Auburn along with the university. Congratulations to Central High School and Coach Jamey Dubose for winning the 7A Championship.
Other noteworthy events in 2018 included: Robert Maddox retiring from coaching at Lee-Scott Academy, Mike Glisson being hired as Smiths Station’s football coach, Beulah winning eight games in a season and hosting a playoff game, Auburn High School Athletic Director Clay McCall retiring from ACS and Tommie Agee leaving the City of Opelika Parks and Recreation Department to take a similar position with the CIty of Andalusia.
As I wrote earlier, several tragic deaths happened in 2018, including the passing of educator Dr. John Meals, longtime friend Sharron Robinson Fuller and several relatives.
I hope each and every one of our readers and subscribers has a wonderful 2019!
D. Mark Mitchell is sports director for iHeart Media, Alabama Dixie Boys state director and vice president of the A-O Sports Council.

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