By D. Mark Mitchell
Sports Editor

OHS Football

The Opelika Bulldogs (0-1) were beaten by Benjamin Russell (1-0) 14-7 last week in Alexander City. It was not the start that all of us wanted but our OHS team has many new faces and not much experience. That may sound like an excuse, but it’s true.

Things got bad for the Dawgs at the very beginning of the game. OHS shanked the opening kickoff and Ben Russell took over at their own 47-yard line. Six plays later, it was 6-0 after an Alexander City TD and a missed extra point.

The mistakes would continue to mount for OHS. Six Bulldog first downs in the first half  were nullified due to penalties. Opelika ended the first half with one first down and zero points.

BRHS added their final touchdown with 1:08 left in the first half on a two-yard run that capped off a 52-yard drive. Opelika originally stopped the Wildcats on the two point try, but the eighth Bulldog penalty of the half gave BRHS another chance from the one yard line. This time they converted and took a 14-0 lead into the locker room at halftime.

The Bulldogs held the football all but two minutes and 35 seconds of the third quarter but could not score. Every time OHS got close to the goal line a penalty would back us up. The Bulldogs drove inside the Wildcat 30-yard line late in the third quarter, but received four major distance penalties and wound up punting on fourth down with 58 yards to go to pick up the first down. That’s fourth and 58! Might be a record.

Coach Blackmon’s team never quit; they kept battling and stopped the Wildcats on several drives. The Dawgs finally scored a TD on a four-yard Jakell Mitchell run. Caz Blacken added the PAT to make it 14-7.

The Dawg defense stopped Ben Russell again and got the ball back with five minutes left in the game, but the Opelika offense was unable to mount a drive to tie the game. BRHS took over and ran out the final two minutes to earn their first win of the 2012 season.

Sophomore Bulldog quarterback Mathew Christian finished the game 10 of 16 for 133 yards and one interception. Coach Blackmon, on his post game radio show with me, made no excuses and took the blame for the loss.

“You can blame me for this loss. It is my job to get our guys prepared to play and motivate them to start fast. We played pretty good on defense after we settled down, but we struggled on offense. We couldn’t run the ball, which put too much pressure on our sophomore quarterback (Mathew Christian). We have got to watch the film, correct our mistakes, run the football and get ready for our first region game next week,” said Blackmon.

Opelika will host new region for Robert E. Lee (Montgomery) tonight at Bulldog Stadium at 7 p.m. The Bulldogs will get a boost from three starters who return after not dressing out last week.

Robert E. Lee was beaten by Wetumpka last week. The Generals are trying to get the program back to their glory years when coach Spence McCracken won three state titles there before he was hired away by Opelika. They lost one of their better players two weeks before the Wetumpka game, because he transferred to Carver.

If the Bulldogs improve, avoid drive-killing penalties and start faster this week, we should win this game. A win would ease the pain from last week’s loss. It is also very important that we win our first region game.

Keys to Victory

The keys to victory are simple, but sometimes hard to execute: first, establish both lines of scrimmage. If we do this on offense, it will allow our running game to excel which will take the pressure off QB Mathew Christian. If we control the defensive line, R.E. Lee’s offense will not be able to move the ball consistently which will make it harder for them to score.

The special teams have to improve. We have got to be able to kick the ball deep on kickoffs. Winston Smith T has been a pleasant surprise punting; he will keep improving which will make this phase of the special teams better.

I know our coaches have an excellent game plan. We need the entire Opelika family to get behind our team and stay positive. One game does not make or break a season.

You can listen to the Opelika vs. Robert E. Lee game on WKKR 97.7 KICKER FM or on the web at starting at 6:30 p.m. with “The Coach Brian Blackmon” pre-game show followed by live coverage from Bulldog Stadium at 6:45 p.m. After the game you can hear coach Blackmon’s thoughts on his post game show.

Following the OHS broadcast you can catch all of the high school scores until midnight on the “High School Scoreboard Show” hosted by Eddie Owens and Jere Bavaro.

OMS vs. Wetumpka

The OMS seventh grade bulldogs opened the season with a 28-8 win vs. Wetumpka in Bulldog Stadium Thursday night.

Ladamian Webb scored two TD’s and two two-point conversions. Dayton Thomas also scored two TD’s. Hank Brown led the offensive line. Elijah Miller and Taylor Jones led the OMS defense. Chase Adams had an interception.

The OMS eighth graders defeated Wetumpka 19 -0. John David Worth opened the scoring with a two-yard run and defensive tackle Khalif Kellum finished the scoring for the half with a 36-yard fumble return after a big hit by Zach Yancey. Shabasken Holloway added a six-yard run and Brandon Gaffney added the PAT.  Paul Money and Rakavius Chambers led the offensive line. Christian Collins, Zach Yancey, Henry Smith T and Weldrin Ford led the OMS defense. Davis Gafford and Collins had interceptions. Both teams continue next Thursday night at Bulldog Stadium vs. Valley.

The official site for Opelika athletic’s is WWW.THEDAWGNETWORK.COM. The site has been reconstructed and is fan-friendly. You will find athletic schedules, information, highlights from games played years ago as well as this year’s games and you can read or re-read “On The Mark.”

Opelika Athletic Schedule for Next Week

The schedule for Opelika athletics next week is as follows:

Volleyball: 9-10 vs. Beulah Varsity (home) at 4:30 p.m., 9-11 vs. Central JV and Varsity at 4 p.m. (home) 9-13 vs. Ben Russell and Robert E. Lee Varsity at home starting at 4 p.m. All home volleyball matches are in the old gym.

Ninth grade football: 9-10, at Ben Russell at 5:30 p.m.

Junior varsity football: 9-10, at Ben Russell at 7 p.m.

OMS Football Seventh grade: (9-13) at Ben Russell at 5 p.m.

Ninth grade: (9-13) at Ben Russell at 6 p.m.

Opelika All-Sports Booster Club

The next meeting for the Opelika All-Sports Booster Club will be Sept. 11, at 6:30 p.m. at Western Sizzlen Steak House. All Opelika Bulldog fans are encouraged to attend. The event is free. We encourage you to bring your family and eat (not required), if you wish, dutch treat.

The coaches from cross country, volleyball and football will speak and answer your questions. Everyone attending has a chance to win prizes ranging from Opelika caps, shirts, T-shirts, tags, stickers, cushions, OHS football tickets, oil changes and many other items donated by our sponsors.

The Dawg House

Fans attending Opelika High School football games at Bulldog Stadium will be able to buy Opelika items at the All-Sports Booster Club “Dawg House” which is located on the grass area before you get to the entrance to the stadium.

We will have Under Armour items (the official Opelika apparel sponsor) such as polos and T-shirts, shakers, cushions, cups, car magnets, tags and many other items. The proceeds go the the All-Sports Booster Club. All items are reasonably priced.

The Dawg House items can be purchased during the week at Bubba’s Medicine Shop on Second Avenue from Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Bubba’s has agreed to sell these items with all proceeds going to the Booster Club.