By D. Mark Mitchell

sports columnist

The Opelika High School football team completed its summer workout schedule Wednesday morning. The Dawgs will “officially” begin summer practice Monday morning.
Brian Blackmon starts his seventh season as head coach/athletic director. He has compiled a 44-22 overall record: 28-11 in the region and has made the playoffs five straight seasons including Opelika’s first-ever trip the the 6A Super 6 championship game in 2012.
We have a few changes with the offensive coaching staff. Brian Moore left OHS to be the head football coach/athletic director at Eufaula High School. Moore took Brandon Johnson, OHS strength coach, with him as his top assistant.
Coach Blackmon will assume the duties as offensive coordinator, a title he held before becoming head coach and for two years after becoming head coach. Zach Blatt moved from OMS to OHS as strength coach. Rick Wade will coach receivers. Buster Daniel coaches the special teams and offensive line along with Lamar Prescott, Jonathan Chandler coaches tight ends and Ben Landers coaches running backs.
The defensive staff remains intact. Erik Speakman is the  defensive coordinator. Mike Murray coaches cornerbacks, Adam Massey coaches linebackers, Alex Dowdell coaches safeties while Jimmy Johnson and Kenny Prescott coach the defensive line and ends.
The staff is a mixture of veteran and young coaches. Four played football at Opelika. The group works well together and always have Opelika prepared to play each week.
This is the biggest change in the coaching staff.  Coach Blackmon has decided to take over the position he once held for 14 years. Blackmon kept the job for two years after being named head coach.
The players and fans will see a smooth transition from Moore back to Blackmon. The two worked closely over the past four seasons. Blackmon allowed Moore the  freedom of calling plays, but he was always listening in over the headsets.
The biggest adjustment for Blackmon will be calling plays and managing the game at the same time. Blackmon is starting his 19th season as a football coach. By now he understands how to do both duties.
He played for and coached under Hall of Fame Coach, Spence McCracken. McCracken, as you know, is one of the greatest Alabama high school football coaches of all time. You can’t pay for the knowledge you gain from Coach McCracken.
Blackmon now has six years head coaching experience to go along with the knowledge gained as a assistant to McCracken that has prepared him for the challenge.
Opelika will play a ten game schedule: five road games and five home games. The season opener will be in Tuscaloosa against Hillcrest High School, August 21. The Dawgs host rival Auburn in the home opener at Bulldog Stadium a week later, August 28.
Opelika will host Benjamin Russell, Valley, Oxford and Enterprise.
The Dawgs travel to Chelsea, Chilton County, Russell County and Pell City.
Opelika High will sell season football tickets beginning August 10.
Current season ticket holders can purchase season tickets August 10-14 in the Performing Arts Center lobby from 3:45-5:30pm.Current season ticket holders can swap season tickets Monday, Aug.17, from 3:45-5 pm.
New season tickets go on sale Aug. 18, 3:45-5:30 pm. Tickets are $7 each which equals $35 per seat for the season. Student tickets are $25 for the season.  For more information, call OHS at 745-9715.
The Opelika All-Sports Booster Club has Chartered a Bus for the Hillcrest game.  Seats are available on a first-come basis for $35 each. This does not include tickets to the game.  (You can purchase tickets at the gate in Tuscaloosa) If you are interested, go by the main office at Opelika High School weekdays before 3 pm. Payment must be made in cash.
The Opelika All-Sports Booster Club will hold their annual Corporate Sponsor Dinner August 13, 6:30 pm at the OHS Cafe. Kitchen 3810 will cater the event which starts at 6:30 pm. Invitations will go out by Monday to Corporate Sponsors.
If you are a Corporate Sponsor and would like to attend, please RSVP to
OHS Cross Country Coach Tony Benetez resigned last Friday to take a full time position as ROTC instructor at AHS.
Benetez coached the boys cross country team to a second place finish in the state last season. He coached Ben Bryant, “Gatorade Cross Country Runner of the Year.”
Opelika is currently in the process of interviewing candidates to be the new cross country coach.D.Mark Mitchell is sports director for iHeart Media, Alabama Dixie Boys State director and vice president of the  A-O Sports Council.