By D. Mark Mitchell

Sports Columnist

Opelika Schools are closed for holidays. The winter sports (wrestling, basketball and indoor track) allow their student-athletes some time off from scheduled games but continue to workout during the break.
The boys basketball team participated in the LaGrange Holiday Tournament this week. At the time this article was written, the boys had defeated W.D. Mohammad High School (Ga.) 76-39 in the first round.
Joey Payne led the Dawgs in scoring with 14 points. Teammates Wesley Dowdell and Pernell Vickerstaff added 10 points each.
This was the first game in over a week for Coach John Wadsworth’s team. Although pleased with the effort, Wadsworth could tell his players had not played a game in a while. “It was good to play a game and win. I gave the kids a few days off to enjoy Christmas and family. We were a little sluggish early but settled down as the game progressed,” said Wadsworth.
As usual all 12 players played; eleven of them scored. The Bulldogs improved to 10-2 (Area 1-0)
Opelika will play two more games in the tournament before hosting Smiths Station (Jan. 6) and Benjamin Russell (Jan. 9)
The Opelika girls (9-5, Area 1-0) participated in the “Ball ‘N Power Tournament” at Faulkner University in Montgomery this week. These results were not known at press time.
Coach Devin Booth also gave her team off several days for Christmas. The Lady Bulldogs are poised for their stretch run which begins in January.
The girls, like the boys, play five Area games in January. Both girls and boys teams have good chances of winning the Area regular season titles.
The winner of the Area regular season hosts the Area tournament.
The two teams that finish first and second in the Area tournament advance to the AHSAA basketball playoffs. The Area tournament champions host the sub-regional game. Every team playing in the Area tournament is eligible to make the AHSAA playoffs, regardless of regular season record.     Both girls and boys host Smiths Station on Jan. 6 and Benjamin Russell on Jan. 9 (Area game). Tipoff for the girls is set for 6 p.m. with the boys game to follow.
The Opelika grapplers will participate in the “Scott Rohrer Invitational” next weekend. Coach Davis has the young team improving. Look for the OHS wrestling team to make a run at the sectional title.
Both  OHS indoor track teams dominated their first meet in early December. Both girls and boys have a great chance to win the 6A State indoor track title. Both teams have sprinters and long distance runners who can win a title. I will keep you posted.
The beginning of the new year means winter sports are halfway over and spring sports are on the verge of starting.
Yes, spring sports.The AHSAA allows tennis teams to hold their first practice Jan. 12. Soccer can start practicing Jan. 19. Softball, baseball and golf can all begin practice Jan. 26 and outdoor track starts Feb. 6.
I want to wish my readers a Happy New Year! Thank you for reading my column each week. I am blessed the “Opelika Observer” asked me to write a weekly column about Opelika athletics when it began publication six years ago.
I try to write about each sport and provide information you don’t read or hear anywhere else. Dr. Mark Neighbors, Dr. Farrell Seymore and Coach/Athletic Director Brian Blackmon allow me to write about the things that go on “behind the scene.”
As the “Voice of the Opelika Bulldogs,” you can always count on me to report positive things about Opelika Athletics.
I look forward to a wonderful 2015 for us all!
I am pleased to inform you that Opelika High School principal, Dr. Farrell Seymore, is resting at home after successful surgery in early December.
Although no time frame has been set for Dr Seymore’s return to his daily duties, he expects to return sooner than later. Best wishes for a speedy recovery, Dr. Seymore!
D.Mark Mitchell is sports director for iHeart Media, Alabama Dixie Boys State director and vice president of the  A-O Sports Council.