OPELIKA HIGH FOOTBALL
Opelika opened the 2015 season with a 34-20 win over Hillcrest in Tuscaloosa. The Bulldogs endured a three hour drive to Tuscaloosa and a two hour rain/lightning delay to play a game that was completed at 12:08 a.m. (Saturday morning).
Dark clouds were hovering around the stadium during pre-game warm ups but no rain or lightning was present. Each team scored two touchdowns and missed an extra point in the first quarter.
With 10:26 left in the second quarter, the officials stopped the game and cleared the field due to lightning. Two hours and 8 minutes later, the game resumed.
Coach Blackmon and staff were able to keep the team focused during the delay which was a huge reason OHS won the game.
Josh Johnson scored on a 14-yard run with five minutes left in the half; Jack Slay added the PAT to give OHS a 20-13 lead.
Blatt put Opelika in scoring position by blocking a Hillcrest punt. The Dawgs took over at the Patriot 25. QB Jake Bentley threw a lateral pass to JD Worth who was lined up as a receiver. Worth took the lateral and threw a 25-yard pass to Tanner Blatt, who was all alone on the opposite sideline. Blatt caught the pass and sprinted in the end zone for the TD which put OHS up 27-13.
Hillcrest scored a TD with one minute remaining in the half and Opelika took a 27-20 lead at the intermission.
Tanner Blatt made another big play to start the second half as he took the second half kickoff 95 yards for his second score to seal the win for Opelika.
Taking advantage of the wet field and wet football, Josh Johnson took over late in the game, rushing for 130 total yards.
The Dawgs defense made several adjustments and shut down the Patriots in the second half.
Coach Blackmon was pleased with the win. “It was a long one, D.Mark. We have started some on Saturday and ended on Saturday. We started some on Friday and finished on Friday. This is the first time we started on Friday and finished on Saturday,” said Blackmon ,with a smile, on his post game radio show.
“The kids were tired. We started the day at 6 a.m., went to school until noon and drove 3 hours to play and we finished after midnight, after a two hour delay. I am proud of our guys for not quitting and, of course, for winning the game.”
Opelika, 1-0, will host cross town rival Auburn High School at Bulldog Stadium tonight at 7 p.m. Opelika and Auburn will play for the 90th time. Both teams enter the game 1-0. Auburn defeated Gadsden City, 45-38, last Friday on the road.
AHS has a new coach, Adam Winegarden, who took over after Tim Carter was ousted after nine years at the school. Carter had won 89 games in nine seasons including a 6-4 record against the Bulldogs.
Coach Winegarden left Fairhope to take the Auburn job and the $123,000 salary offered by the Auburn school system.
The Tigers will be without running back Tyus Flakes, who tore his knee up during spring practice. AHS will dress 110 players for the game. Opelika will dress out 83.
Auburn’s offensive line averages over 290 lbs. and all of them are returning starters. Bradley Northcutt will make his third start at quarterback against Opelika. The senior has started since the 10th grade.
Jake Bentley will make his second start of his young career and his first against AHS.
The quarterbacks get most of the attention and rightfully so. They touch the football more than any player but the centers. Both must lead the offense and keep the players calm and their heads in the game.
Opelika leads the series 44-42, The two teams tied three times.
A huge standing room only crowd is expected at Bulldog Stadium. Last year’s game saw over 7,000 people pay to watch it, the second largest crowd for a high school game in Alabama.
Opelika will try to capitalize on the home field advantage. Opelika fans are asked to wear red clothing and are encouraged to arrive early despite reserved seats. The Opelika All-Sports Booster Club will give away 500 red T-Shirts to Opelika students arriving early.
Auburn has the size advantage on the offensive line and a veteran quarterback. Opelika has two great running backs and several skill players who can make big plays: Josh Johnson, Tanner Blatt, James Moss, Jaleel Heard, Kyle Fourtanbary and Caleb Florence.
The Opelika defense is fast and flies to the football. The secondary allowed two huge plays last week but will be better as the season progresses. The OHS D-Line will have to work hard against the huge strong 0-Line of AHS.
Sage Ledbetter kicks for Auburn. The senior will be a preferred walk-on at Auburn University next year. Ledbetter will kick off into the end zone and can make a 50-yard field goal with ease. Opelika’s kicker, Jack Slay, has strengthened his leg during the off season and will be a bigger factor for the Dawgs.
If Auburn plays man coverage on our receivers, look for Bentley to have a big night. The speed of our receivers will be hard for Auburn to handle.
Tonight’s game could be a high scoring affair. I believe Opelika will win a close game to take a two game win streak over rival Auburn.
One thing is for sure, this will be one heck of a high school football game featuring two great teams.
LISTEN TO THE GAME
Fans can listen to wall-to-wall coverage of the Opelika/Auburn game by tuning to WKKR 97.7 KICKER FM. The tailgate show will start at 4:30, pre-game at 6:30 and kickoff at 7. You can listen online at kickerfm.com.
Fans can watch the game on the internet by going to the NFHS Network. Search Opelika, pay the subsrciption fee and watch the game while listening to the radio crew.
D.Mark Mitchell is sports director for iHeart Media, Alabama Dixie Boys State director and vice president of the A-O Sports Council.
OPELIKA HIGH FOOTBALL