By D. Mark Mitchell

Last week, the Opelika High School campus was almost empty with the exception of a few 12-month employees and the OHS girls and boys basketball teams.
The basketball teams started their allowed practice time in accordance with the AHSAA rules. Girls Coach Devin Booth and boys Coach John Wadsworth would rather start early. Both the girls and boys teams have several student/athletes who play multiple sports. Starting early helps the kids and insures all sports have their players during summer workouts.
The boys will travel to Smiths Station June 8, travel to Vestavia June 22 and will participate in the AU team camp June 23. The girls host several schools June 23-24 at OHS. Both gyms will be used for games all day. The lady Bulldogs travel to Columbus State June 15, to Loachapoka June 16 and to ASU June 21-22. The AHSAA allows each team to play multiple games on the same day.
Baseball started workouts Monday with a 5 p.m. practice. Coach Nick Richardson is beginning his first summer at Opelika, because he was hired in July a year ago, after 2016 summer workouts were completed. OHS played Valley Tuesday at Bulldog Park. (Results were not available at press time) The Dawgs travel to Valley June 8, travel to Beauregard June 12, host Beauregard Thursday, host Dadeville June 20 and travel to Dadeville June 22 to end the summer practice games.
Coach Richardson has been a regular at West Ridge Park since his season ended. He watches league games in the Dixie Youth league and Dixie Boys league almost every night. This is an example of a person committed to making Opelika baseball better and running a first -class baseball program. Coach Richardson understands the importance of a great youth baseball program; this is his feeder program.
I applaud Coach Richardson for visiting West Ridge to watch future Bulldogs play baseball.  This proves to parents and boosters alike that Coach Richardson cares about our kids. That is what it is all about!
The OHS softball team is preparing for workouts. Coach Tina Deese begins her third year as head coach. She continues to work on pitching, one of the most important positions on the field. Coach Deese and OMS Coach Angela Mills are holding a Softball Academy every Monday and Thursday for 3rd-6th graders.  The academy is held  on the softball fields at West Ridge Park. For more information, visit
When Coach Brian Blackmon resigned to take a position on the AU staff, this was a major change for both Blackmon and OHS. Brian Blackmon spent his entire coaching career at Opelika, 21 years, including the last eight years as head football coach and athletic director.
Caleb Ross was hired as Opelika’s head football coach in late spring. At the same time Dr. Mark Neighbors and Dr. Farrell Seymore named Erik Speakman athletic director.
This is a big change. Dating back to 1969, possibly earlier, Opelika’s head football coach was the athletic director.  Dr. Neighbors decided now was time to separate the two positions when  a new coach was being hired.
Coach Caleb Ross is head football coach and has full control over that program.  Coach Erik Speakman is Athletic Director over remaining sports with help from Coach Devin Booth who serves as Assistant Athletic Director for Female Sports.  All three report to OHS principal, Dr. Farrell Seymore.
I applaud the decision to separate the Athletic Director position and head football coach.  This move should help Opelika athletics in the coming years. This move allows Coach Ross to concentrate on football year round and will allow each sport an athletic director that is not a head coach of another sport.
I realize Coach Speakman serves as defensive coordinator for football, but he is not the head football coach.
The key to all the above is to accept change and realize it is best for Opelika athletics!
The Dawg football team will begin summer workouts Monday June 12 at 6 a.m. Coach Ross and his staff have many items on the summer schedule including playing in a few “7-on-7” games across the state.
Opelika opens the regular season August 25 at Smiths Station. The first home game will be September 1 at Bulldog Stadium against archrival Auburn High School.
If you are interested in becoming a corporate sponsor for Opelika athletics, please email D.Mark Mitchell at
D.Mark Mitchell is sports director for iHeart Media, Alabama Dixie Boys State director and vice president of the  A-O Sports Council.