2021 Sports Review

D. Mark Mitchell


Opelika athletics had a relatively quiet Christmas week, with the exception of girls and boys varsity basketball teams.

The OHS girls basketball team played in the Spain Park Tournament last week. The girls lost two games in a row, 34-31 to Central Tuscaloosa, Monroe, Georgia, 56-45.

The OHS boys lost to Lovejoy (Georgia) 66-56 in the LaGrange Tournament. Three Bulldog players scored in double-figures:

– Grady Bynum led with 15 points,

– Isaiah Knight 11 points and

– Landon Lee added 10 points.

Opelika played two more games in LaGrange. No further results were available at press time.

Both teams are in action this week, the boys in LaGrange while the girls play in the Columbus, Georgia, Tournament.

As the 2021 year comes to close, I wanted to give you a summary of Opelika athletics.

The year started during winter sports, indoor track, girls/boys basketball and wrestling are in the second half of the season.

Opelika won the 2021 Indoor Track Championship in Birmingham. Coach Jimmy Johnson and staff continues to put solid teams together each year with a chance to win the title.


OHS Athletic Director, Mike Pugh hired Emanuel Brown after longtime head coach John Wadsworth resigned to coach basketball at Enterprise High School. Brown was an assistant coach at Rehobeth prior to accepting the job. OHS allowed him to hire two additional assistant coaches, along with current assistants Wesley Button and Tom Landers. 

Brown abruptly resigned in early January after starting 0-4. Assistant coach Wesley Button was named interim coach for the remainder of the season. The Dogs finished 6-15 after the tough start. Button was named head coach after another coaching search.

OHS girls, led by Devin Booth finished 11-11, advancing to the sub-regional round of the playoffs. Booth led OHS to four straight state finals prior to 2020-21.


The varsity baseball team won the area title and hosted a first-round series against Spanish Fort. The Toro’s swept OHS in a doubleheader, eliminating the Bulldogs from the playoffs.

The Lady Bulldog Softball team, under first year head coach Randy Belyue, won the regular season area championship, and hosted the area Tournament. The Lady Dogs were eliminated prior to the finals, ending the season.

Belyue, frustrated with the OHS administration “lack of support”, resigned after being told OHS was not renewing his contract.

The Opelika boys Track and Field team won the 6A State Championship in Gulfshores. Johnson was awarded the NFHS Alabama Track and Field Coach of the Year, nominated by the AHSAA.


Coach Erik Speakman, who started his fourth year as head coach, finished the season with a 9-4 record in the quarterfinal round of the 6A playoffs. OHS won its eight straight region title and advanced to its eight straight quarterfinal round.

The year ended with Opelika moving to class 7A after re-classification was released two weeks ago.

Opelika moves in the region with,

Auburn, Central, RE Lee, Jeff Davis, Enterprise, Dothan, Smiths Station and Prattville.  These teams, with the exception of Prattville, were on Opelika’s schedule for many years. The Dogs continued to play Auburn and Central despite playing in class 6A.

Opelika’s 2022 schedule is as followed: Aug. 8 at Calloway, Aug. 26 at Jeff Davis, Sept. 2 against RE Lee, Sept. 9 against Central, Sept. 16 at Prattville, Sept. 30 at Auburn, Oct. 7 against Smiths Station, Oct. 14. against Enterprise and Oct. 21 at Dothan.


Opelika hired UL-Monroe assistant Jessica Thorntan to be the new head softball coach. Thorntan comes to OHS with no high school coaching experience but brings knowlege of the game of softball.

Opelika Mayor Gary Fuller had his eyes on West Ridge softball fields for the past two years. Former head coaches, Tina Deese and Belyue asked for the facility to be upgraded.

Fuller announced the two softball fields would be turfed prior to the end of Jan. 22. This is a major upgrade for OHS softball and Opelika recreation softball.

I invite you to listen to “On the Mark” presented by the Orthopaedic Clinic each weekday 6 to 9 a.m. on FOX Sports the Game 910-1310, online at foxsportsthegame.com and on download the iHeartRadio app, search WZMG.

Jeff Sasser and I co-host the LOCAL Sports Radio show along with daily guest hosts:

– Coach Dan Washburn

– Coach Joe Wilson

– Coach Doug Barfield

– James Cooper

– Coach Larry Gore and

– former Alabama football coach Gene Stallings every Thursday at 7 a.m.

Hear coaches from local high schools, Opelika Mayor Gary Fuller and Auburn Mayor Ron Anders provide bi-weekly city council recaps and many other local news and sports.

D. Mark Mitchell is the sports director at iHeartMedia, host of “On the Mark” Fox Sports the Game 910-1310, co-chari of the Auburn-Opelika Sports Council, chairman of the Super 7 and Dixie Boys Baseball state director.


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