By Harrison Tarr
For the Opelika Observer
The wait is officially over for fans of college football. This past weekend there was tailgating, marching bands, stadiums packed to the brim and — most importantly — a full slate of teams doing battle on the gridiron.
For fans of the game in Opelika, Alabama, last weekend’s return of football meant new opportunities for a slew of Opelika High School alumni.
Nine former Bulldogs look to establish themselves as serious factors for their respective schools in 2021-22.
JAKE BENTLEY: SOUTH ALABAMA
The quarterback for the Bulldogs from 2014 until 2016, Bentley’s football career has been journey. After posting 28 touchdowns and 2,834 yards in the air as a junior at Opelika, the then-four-star elected to forgo his senior year of high school and enroll at the University of South Carolina. Bentley spent four years as part of the Gamecock quarterback room before transferring to Utah for his fifth season. Upon the conclusion of his 2020 campaign, the quarterback announced his decision to transfer to South Alabama where he will spend his final year of eligibility helping the Jaguars improve upon a 4-8 season in 2020.
Bentley went 17-for-22 for 269 yards and 2 TD’s in Satruday’s week one win over Southern Miss.
CHARLIE BENTON: UAB
A linebacker and OHS graduate in 2016 who served as a key aspect to the Bulldog defense in its 2015 12-1 campaign, Benton’s collegiate journey has lead him back to his home state of Alabama. After redshirting at Butler Community College (Kan.) in 2016, the linebacker transferred to West Virginia for two years and saw just six games worth of action. He recorded no stats during his time as a Mountaineer. Now a redshirt senior, Benton joins the Blazers in hopes to help his squad repeat as C-USA champions for the third time in four years. He did not record any stats in the team’s season opening win over Jacksonville State last Wednesday.
WILL BOLER III: UAB
Despite playing just two full seasons for the Bulldogs, Boler’s career has likely captivated the interest of most all OHS fans. A standout safety during his time at Opelika, the 6’0” DB has made a noteworthy impact on the UAB secondary. After redshirting as a true freshman in 2017, Boler went to work; he has appeared in all 36 games for the JSU Blazers since 2018 and earned honorable mention for All-Conference USA in both 2019 and 2020. The former bulldog posted a pair of solo tackles in the team’s win last Wednesday night.
CADE BLACKMAN: SAMFORD
An OHS graduate in 2019, Blackman continued the tradition of Bulldog quarterback’s playing at the next level. After posting 1,498 yards and 13 touchdowns through the air as a senior in 2018, Blackman decided to take his talents to Samford. The former Bulldog saw no playing time in 2019; he did, however, take snaps in the team’s win over the Citadel in 2020. Blackman did not take any snaps in the Bulldogs 52-14 win over Tennessee Tech on Thursday.
DEVIN GUICE: AUBURN
Following his graduation from Opelika in 2016, Guice enrolled at Auburn University and walked on to then-head coach Gus Malzahn’s team in his first semester on The Plains. Despite recording 49 solo tackles, two interceptions and nine pass-break-ups (PBU) as a senior at OHS, the defensive back has yet to see a season in which he recorded more than two game appearances. He will seek to prove himself as a senior in what many speculate to be one of Auburn’s most improved secondaries in some time after producing a solo tackle in the Tigers 60-10 beat down of Akron on Saturday.
JAYLEN STINSON: DUKE
A former Rivals consensus three-star athlete, Stinson’s career at Opelika was certainly one worth remembering. The defensive back compiled 221 tackles, four interceptions, eight touchdowns, two forced fumbles and two blocked field goals in his final three years as a Bulldog. Since his arrival at Duke in 2020, Stinson has seen action in all 11 contests involving the Blue Devils, posting 12 tackles and one touchdown. The former Bulldog picked up where he left off on Saturday, recording three punt returns netting 66 yards and a pair of tackles in the Blue Devils’ 28-31 loss to the Charlotte 49ers.
JAMES DAWSON: KENNESAW STATE
Dawson’s work in the trenches at Opelika is a career that likely goes unnoticed; his work at right guard, however, was worth writing home about. The former Bulldog started 48 consecutive games at right guard, holds the school record for pancake blocks with 143 during his four years and was named first team All-Area three consecutive years. Dawson saw just two games worth of action for the Owls in 2019; however, did record his first collegiate start against Dixie State on March 20. The offensive lineman continued his work in the trenches when the Owls downed Reinhardt 35-25 on Thursday.
A recipient of Alabama Offensive All-State Second Team honors from USA Today in 2015, Fourtenbary tallied 472 yards and six touchdowns on 28 receptions as a senior on the 12-1 OHS state-quarterfinal team. Despite redshirting as a freshman in 2016, the tight end’s impact on the Panther offense has been noteworthy. Fourtenbary has started in every game for UNI dating back to 2018, has recorded over 360 yards in the same time and has posted a pair of touchdowns to boot. The OHS alumni saw playing time in his team’s 16-10 loss to No. 7 Iowa State on Saturday; however, recorded no receptions.