By D. Mark Mitchell
The Opelika football team participated in the Southeastern USA 7-on-7 Championships in Hoover two weeks ago, which featured teams from across the Southeast.
OHS did not win the tournament, but Coach Caleb Ross said he was pleased with his team’s effort in Hoover.
“We competed! I want our guys to play 100 percent every play. 7-on-7 helps the timing with our quarterback, receivers and our defensive backs. I am happy where we are but it’s only summer,” Ross said.
The Bulldogs travelled to Troy yesterday to participate in OTA (organized team activity) with Charles Henderson, which will allow the two teams to practice against someone other than your own players.
The Bulldogs open fall practice Aug. 7. Opelika travels to Smiths Station for the season opener Aug. 25.
I sat down with Coach Ross last week to discuss his thoughts about Opelika, since being hired as the head football coach.
It’s obvious Coach Ross seems thrilled to be at Opelika. You can tell by the way he interacts with his team and the community and you can hear when he speaks.
“Amy and I have thoroughly enjoyed being in Opelika. We feel like the entire town has welcomed us with open arms. Opelika reminds me is of our hometown, Prattville,” Ross said. “It’s not huge but you have all the necessities in a small-town environment. The key people in the city all support us.”
“Mayor Fuller has made it clear to me, and obviously to the citizens, that he supports OCS and athletics. Council President Smith and members of the City Council show the same support. That’s a big deal. Not every school’s football coach can say that,” Ross said with a grin. “The entire school administration is top notch. Second to none.”
Ross went on to explain that he also admires OHS’s administration and staff, as well as the school and its facilities.
“Dr. Neighbors is a true professional, well respected by his peers and understands the importance of a good athletic program and football team. Dr. Seymore won the Secondary Principal of the Year … he is a great man that I enjoy working under,” Ross said. “The OHS staff including Mrs.Pollard and Mrs. Stephens (bookkeeping) are accessible and have helped me since day one … look at this campus, it’s beautiful and the grounds are always looking neat. Our campus is first class. No other high school in Alabama has facilities like we have here at Opelika. The school is brand new and equipped with all the latest equipment, the performing arts center speaks for itself and lastly….(with a big smile ) the athletic facilities are incredible. Turf field, indoor practice facility and all the necessities to have a first class program.”
Looking ahead to the fall, Ross said he is optimistic for his team’s chances because of his coaching staff.
“Top to bottom, we have as good of coaches as you can find. We are blessed to have good men that are good coaches … many new head coaches expect to bring a few assistant coaches when taking over at a new high school,” Ross said.
Since taking the job Coach Ross has hired two coaches including Jamie Williams as assistant head coach.
Coach Ross also praised the players on his team.
“We have high character kids on this team. I have been pleased with the way the young men handle themselves. They will look you in the eyes when you speak and reply “yes sir, no sir,” Ross said. “I never worried about our players in Birmingham competing in the 7-on-7 competition. We stayed two nights in a hotel with no issues. This is not something you take for granted .”
The 37-year-old has coached in eight championship games, six as a coordinator and two as a head coach. At McGill-Toolen, Ross won a state championship in 2015 and finishing second in 2016.
Ross hopes he can use the experience to help Opelika High win its first state football championship!
The Opelika Dixie Boys All-Star Team, recently finished second in the state tournament held in Dothan.
The Opelika 13U All-Stars opened the eight-team, double-elimination state tournament by winning three-straight games. Opelika was the only team with no loses but played Dothan, a one-loss team, in the semifinals.
Opelika lost, leaving three teams with one loss. The three teams drew for the “bye” to the championship game.
Troy won the draw, leaving Opelika to play Dothan for a third time with the winner playing Troy for the state title.
The 13U All-Stars beat Dothan at 9 a.m. to advance to the championship game against Troy. Temperatures were in the 90s. Troy beat Opelika, to win the 13U Alabama State Championship.Opelika finished the tournament 5-2 and second in the state.
D.Mark Mitchell is sports director for iHeart Media, Alabama Dixie Boys State director and vice president of the A-O Sports Council.