By D. Mark Mitchell
IMPROVES RECORD TO 6-0
The stage was set inside Garrett-Harrison Stadium on Wayne Traywick Field last Friday night in Phenix City. Two of the state’s best football teams were playing: Opelika, ranked third in the ASWA 6A rankings; Central, second in the 7A poll.
Opelika won a well-played, hard-fought game on the road against one of the top programs in Alabama, 27-21.
OHS senior Josh Johnson caught a 20-yard Bentley pass for the game’s first score to give the Dawgs a 7-0 lead after Jack Slay added the PAT with 9:36 left in first quarter.
Central answered. With 3:52 left in the first quarter, QB Quan Weaver threw a five-yard pass for a TD.
Opelika scored three more TD’s: James Moss caught a 15-yard pass from Jake Bentley, Kyle Fourtenbary scored on a 16-yard pass from Bentley and Josh Johnson plunged two yards for the final, deciding, tally. Slay was 3 for 4 on PATs.
Central scored their other two TDs on a 69-yard pass from Weaver to Justyn Ross and a 63-yard pass to Ross. All three PATs were good.
The Dawg defense stayed in the Red Devil backfield all night. Zach Yancey led the team with 22 tackles while teammate Charlie Benton added 11 tackles and two interceptions.
A happy and proud Brian Blackmon said he enjoyed watching the game. “This was a fun one (game) to watch. Our kids played hard and competed at a high level the entire game. I could not be happier. Central is a great football team, they can recover and make a run in 7A,” the head coach said in his post-game radio interview.
The win was huge for the team. The atmosphere was like a third round playoff game. Opelika is 2-0 in rival games, AHS and Central.
The Bulldogs have four games remaining, at Chelsea tonight, hosting Valley next week, traveling to Chilton County on October 16 and ending the regular season by hosting Enterprise on October 30.
Tonight Opelika will travel to Chelsea for a important Region game.
OPELIKA AT CHELSEA
The Bulldogs travel to Chelsea tonight in a game with huge Region implications. Both teams are undefeated in the Region and 6-0 overall.
This is the first trip to Chelsea for OHS and the second game in the series. The Dawgs won 40-14 last year.
Chelsea tied Mountain Brook in the season opener. Since then the Hornets have rolled off five straight wins, beating Southside 43-10, Valley 48-3, Chilton County 44-21, Briarwood Christian 21-6 and Helena 40-20.
Chelsea has scored 213 points and allowed 87. Opelika has scored 229 points and given up 104 points.
The strength of schedule is the biggest difference between the two teams. Opelika has played Hillcrest, Auburn and Central along with Benjamin Russell; two of these are 7A teams.
The Bulldogs have experience playing on the road. Road trips to Tuscaloosa and Phenix City have helped us prepare for the trip.
Our coaches have a strict schedule OHS players follow. The schedule starts at the time of departure and keeps the players focused at all times.
Chelsea will play the best they can play. This is a game that has been circled in their schedule since last year’s loss at Bulldog Stadium.
The Hornets were in the same situation as now, 5-0 and needing a Region win. The Bulldogs fell behind in that game and roared back to win going away.
KEYS TO VICTORY
The Bulldogs are coming off an emotional win over rival Central. Chelsea defeated Helena. We have to put the win behind us and play hard against Chelsea.
The Opeika offense is so explosive, it’s hard to stop them from scoring. The defense is fast and improving every play.
The Dawgs will move to 7-0 and one step closer to the second Region championship in as many years.
Chelsea will keep it close early but the talented Bulldogs will take over.
LISTEN TO OHS AT CHELSEA
Fans can listen to the Opelika/Chelsea game by tuning to 97.7 KICKER FM or online at www.kickerfm.com, click listen live.
You can watch the game on the Internet by going to www.nfhsnetwork.com. You must set up a account and pay a small fee. A portion of the fee goes to the Opelika Athletic department.
The Opelika cross country teams travel to Moulton for the Jessie Owens Invitational. This is the top meet in Alabama and the entire South.
The meet is held at the same course the AHSAA state cross country meet is held. This allows runners to run the course that hosts the state meet. Ben Garner continues to place highest on the boy’s team.
OPELIKA MIDDLE SCHOOL
Opelika’s seventh grade football team lost to Smiths Station 14-8 on the road. The defense had five interceptions on the night, one from Ladamian Rowell and four from Braylon Prince.
The Bulldog scoring drive finished with a rushing TD from Eric Watts and a two-point conversion by Qua Ross. Next game is Thursday at home versus Central.
The Opelika eighth grade football team beat Smiths Station 18-6.
The offense was led by Kani Kellum, who had two rushing TDs. Tyriq Chambers added another rushing TD.
The defense played a great game. They were led by James Dawson, Jaylen Stinson, Jamaal Harris, and Miles MaGee.
The 8th grade Dawgs are now 5-0.
Next up is Central at Opelika Middle School.
D.Mark Mitchell is sports director for iHeart Media, Alabama Dixie Boys State director and vice president ofthe A-O Sports Council.