by D. Mark Mitchell

Opelika defied all odds by winning two games while travelling a combined 930 miles in two weeks, over Daphne and Spanish Fort. The Dawgs (12-1) beat Spanish Fort (10-3), 21-17 last Friday night, advancing to the semifinal round of the AHSAA 6A south bracket. This is the fourth time in school history the Bulldogs will play in the semifinals of the playoffs. Coach Blackmon will be taking his second team to the semis; his first team advanced to the Super 6 championship game in 2012.
OHS took a 7-0 lead after Weldrin Ford ran 13 yards for the first of his two touchdowns. The Toros answered with a 41-yard field goal, making the score 7-3 at halftime.
Spanish Fort took the lead with six minutes left in the third quarter after QB Wyatt Wilkerson threw a 16-yard TD pass to Logan Morgan. Opelika answered two minutes later as John David Worth threw a 17 yard pass to Jaleel Heard for a TD giving the Bulldogs a 14-10 lead with four minutes left in the third quarter.
SFHS took their last lead with 1:36 left in the third quarter when Trae Barry caught a 38- yard pass from Wilkerson to make it 17-14.
Weldrin Ford scored the game winning score on a four yard run with 1:49 left in the game. Austen Blackmon kicked all three PATs.
Worth finished with 126 yards on 10 of 16 passing while Ford ran for 153 yards on 32 carries.
Opelika’s defense limited the Toros to 17 points, including just three points in the first half. Coach Speakman and the defensive staff continue to cause problems for opposing teams. The defense only allows an average of around 11 points per game.
OHS will host Park Crossing High School (13-0) in the semifinal round of the 6A state football playoffs. The winner advances to the Super 7 Championship Dec. 3 at 7 p.m. at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
The Thunderbirds, located in Montgomery, are in their third year as a high school. Former OHS assistant and Beauregard head coach Smitty Grider was hired as their first head coach and athletic director. Grider has guided Park Crossing to three straight winning seasons, (2014) 7-3, (2015) 8-3 and 2016 (13-0) and two straight playoff appearances.
Park Crossing lost to Robert E Lee 51-44 in the regular season, but the loss was voided because the Generals played an ineligible player.  Despite the tainted win, PCHS has a talented team.
Park Crossing’s other wins were 30-20 over Jeff Davis, 19-0 over Stanhope, Northview 38-0, Russell County 65-6, Gadsden City 28-14, Carver 48-6, Dothan 38-0, Lanier 13-10 and Clay-Chalkville 56-17 in the regular season and  Saraland 45-14, Bessemer City 52-16 and Blount 54-51 in the playoffs.
Opelika and Park Crossing scrimmaged in spring practice at Bulldog Stadium in May. It is ironic the two teams meet for real with the winner advancing to the Super 7.
Opelika will need another solid effort from the defense. The deeper you advance in the playoffs, the better chance the good defensive teams have of advancing. The Dawgs will need to score 28 or more points to win. I am not saying the Thunderbirds will score 27 points but I like our chances better if our defense can hold them under 24 points.
OHS will need to control the football and use the clock. The longer the Dawg offense is on the field, the less time Park Crossing has to score.
Both teams have played 13 games and will have players that are not 100{44c616e11cf70d617c8dd92fb0bc15f41001df771f775c6b004238009c89a3f0}. The minor bumps and bruises will not keep any player on the sideline. Both teams will use every player able to play.
Opelika has more experience in playoff games. The Thunderbirds are in the playoffs for only the second time while OHS advances almost every year. This plus playing at Bulldog Stadium will give the Dawgs a slight advantage.
This Opelika team deserves to play at Bulldog Stadium this round as the Dawgs have been on the road the last two weeks.
Let’s hope Opelika will win and advance to the Super 7 championship game Dec. 2 at 7 p.m. in Jordan-Hare Stadium.
I predict Opelika wins.
Opelika fans can purchase tickets at Bubba’s Medicine Shop and Victory Designs until Friday at noon. There are 6,500 tickets available at $10 each. I encourage all fans to purchase tickets at the outlets. The OHS ticket office will open at 5:30 p.m. Friday. If the 6,500 tickets sell, no other tickets will be sold.
Fans can listen to Opelika host Park Crossing on WKKR 97.7 KICKER FM. The Kicker will have a hour-long pre-game show starting at 6 p.m. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. Coach Larry Gore and Jeff Sasser will provide commentary, Mallory Mitchell will report from the sidelines and I, D.Mark Mitchell, will handle the play-by-play.
Opelika is not the only local team trying to earn a chance to play in the Super 7. Beauregard will play Jackson on the road this weekend while Lanett will host Fyffe. There will be a total of 12 games in the semi-finals, two each in 1A-6A, this week-end, with the winners advancing to the Super 7 championship at Jordan-Hare two weeks from now.
The Super 7 championships are brought to you by the Auburn/Opelika Sports Council.
Fans can go online to to purchase Super 7 tickets and/or suites. You can also go to for more information.
The event starts Nov. 30, at 3:30 p.m. for the Unified game. Team Lee County will try to defend the Super 7 Championship won last year at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
The 7A championship will start at 7 p.m., Nov. 30th. The rest of the schedule:
Dec. 1, 3A championship at 11 a.m., 1A championship at 3 p.m. and the 5A championship at 7 p.m.
Dec. 2, 4A championship at 11 a.m., 2A championship at 3 p.m. and 6A championship at 7 p.m.
You can hear all seven games on the i-Heart radio stations. The 11 a.m. games will be aired on WTLM 1520 AM. The 3 p.m. games will air on 910 AM and all three night games will air on WKKR 97.7 stating at 7 p.m.
D.Mark Mitchell is sports director for iHeart Media, Alabama Dixie Boys State director and vice president of the  A-O Sports Council.