By D. Mark Mitchell
The Opelika Bulldogs’ football season ended with a 26-24 Class 6A quarterfinal playoff loss to Hillcrest High School Friday night in Tuscaloosa.
Trailing by nine points with a little more than three minutes remaining, the Bulldogs scored a touchdown to pull within two. Opelika then recovered an onside kick, but touched the ball before it travelled the required ten yards, resulting in an illegal touching penalty and giving the ball back to the Patriots, who managed to run out the clock.
Finishing with a 9-4 record and in the top-eight teams of the AHSAA’s Class 6A classification, Coach Caleb Ross’s tenure at Opelika is off to a successful start. Ross made history, winning more games and going deeper into the playoffs than any other first-year Opelika head football coach.
Quarterback Cade Blackmon completed 26-of-37 passes for a school-record 367 yards.
The junior also tied Matthew Christian’s record with 26 completions. Jordan Heard finished his senior year with a career-best 196 receiving yards on six catches.
The Opelika defense continued its tough play, allowing only 18 of the 26 Hillcrest points. Turnovers proved costly for the Bulldogs, including a Patriots fumble recovery for a score.
Speaking on his postgame radio show, Ross said he was happy with his team’s effort and resiliency.
“Our players do not quit. Every time this team faces adversity, we responded the right way,” Ross said. “Tonight we responded but ended up two points short. I am very proud of this team. We were 3-3 and did not have a whole lot of positive things going on … we could have gave up but we did not. They rallied for six straight and advanced deep in the playoffs …I am really proud for this team and seniors.”
As the ‘Voice of the Opelika Bulldogs’, I have the pleasure of broadcasting every football game in the season, home and away. I wanted to take this space to tell the Opelika football team, thank you.
The 2017 version of the Bulldogs provided us with an exciting, entertaining and good football game each week.
The student-athletes, trainers, managers and coaches that the teams consists of deserve the recognition and a thank you.
The future is bright for Opelika with Ross. 2017 is only the beginning.
The OHS Lady Bulldogs beat Carver of Columbus, Ga. 56-28, during the Thanksgiving break.
Alexis Browning led the team with 13 points while Abrea Green added 10 points.
The boys beat Selma 69-66 last week. The Dawgs had four players in double figures:
Tyler Moore scored 14 points, Austin Pitts added 12 points and Jaylen Holloway and Jaylin Cumins added 11 and 10 points apiece.
Opelika’s girls and boys were scheduled to play at Central of Phenix City last night, but the game was cancelled.
Opelika will host Valley Dec. 4. The junior varsity boys start at 4 p.m., varsity girls at 5:30 p.m. and varsity boys at 7:30 p.m.
Fans attending the game can park in the front parking lot. The baseball field lights will be on to help brighten the entrance to the arena.
Admission is $5, and handicapped parking is available by the arena.