By D. Mark Mitchell
Opelika (1-0, R0-0) defeated rival Auburn 20-17 last Friday at the “Duck” in Auburn. The Dawgs came out blazing, scoring all 20 points in the first half.
Tanner Blatt took the opening kick at the Dawgs’ own five and returned it to the AHS 21-yard-line, a holding penalty brought the ball back to the Dawgs’ 18. Two plays later, QB Mathew Christian completed a pass to James Moss, streaking down the OHS sideline for a 76-yard-touchdown. The PAT was missed to make it 6-0 just 31 seconds in the game. Josh Johnson scampered 33 yards for a TD with 7:20 left in the first quarter, Jack Slay added the extra point to increase the lead to 13-0.
The Bulldog defense shut AHS down in the first half, only allowing a 22-yard field goal.The Tigers scored two second half TD’s Kendrick Payne 84-yard run and a 33-yard run by Tyus Flakes. Sage Ledbetter added both PAT’s to make it 20-17.
The win means more than a 1-0 record. This was the first regular season win over Auburn for Coach Brian Blackmon (the first win was in the third round of playoffs); the first win over Auburn since Auburn moved to class 7A; and it was the second straight week we have beaten good football teams – yes, Carver was the first. I don’t care if you call it an exhibition or pre-season game … it was a game.
OHS vs BRHS
Opelika will travel to Alexander City to take on the Ben Russell Wildcats (2-0, R0-0) tonight at 7 p.m. in both teams’ Region opener. The game will be played at the Charles E. Bailey Sportsplex. The Wildcats have beaten BC Rain 38-15 and Clay Central 23-15.
This will be the third straight season the two teams played, this year as a Region foes.
BRHS enters the game averaging 99.5 yards rushing and 15 yards passing per game. The defense has six sacks and three interceptions.
Hall of Fame Coach Danny Horn is in his fifth year as the head man after leaving Clay County to take the job.
Opelika will be fine if the Dawgs continue to improve. The running game has to continue to be productive the entire game, nor just in the first half. Mathew Christian continues to shine at quarterback. Christian makes plays during the game that you can only learn by experience. The three-year starter can take the Bulldogs a long way. The emergence of Tanner Blatt can help with the running game.
The defense has not allowed a TD on a drive. Carver and Auburn scored on “big plays,” blocked punt, punt return, long runs from scrimmage and long passes. YES, these plays count, but as the season continues these big plays will hopefully stop.
The defensive line and linebackers have shined. The secondary continues to improve. The defense has a chance to be a good as any defense around, if we keep improving.
Opelika will improve to 2-0 and 1-0 after beating BRHS tonight. As I wrote last week when predicting an Opelika win over Auburn, I am not looking in a crystal ball. This is an educated opinion after reviewing the Wildcats first two games and being close to the Opelika program. We are a better team than Ben Russell and coming off two impressive games.
The factors that could be a concern for OHS: this is our third straight road game and we are coming off an emotional and physical win over Auburn. The Bulldogs will be without a few starters tonight. I will not list the players; this will be announced at game time.
WATCH LIVE ON THE WEB
Fans can watch every game this season on the internet while listening to the Opelika broadcast team. Go to http://www.thedawgnetwork.com/ or opelikaschools.org and look for the link “NFHS broadcast live.” This will be a blue icon that you can click, which will take you to the site to purchase the game. There are several price plans to choose from. The game can be seen on a smart phone or computer. Part of the proceeds go to the Opelika City School System.
The game will be broadcast on WKKR 97.7 KICKER FM and online at http://www.kickerfm.com/ (click listen live). I will broadcast the game with partners Jeff Sasser, Wade Meadows and former Opelika Coach Larry Gore. Airtime is 6:30 p.m. for the Coach Blackmon pre-game show, live coverage from the Sportsplex at 6:45 p.m. and kickoff set for 7 p.m.
7TH AND 8TH GRADE TEAMS WIN OPENER
The OMS 7th grade football team opened the season with a 30-0 win over Long Cane. Kory McCoy and Kani Kellum led the Dawgs with a pair of touchdowns each. The defense preserved the shutout.
The 8th grade team, under first year head coach Jamie Ferguson, defeated Long Cane 47-0. The offensive line paved the way for running backs Zakobe Collins, Brantan Barnett, Quay Barnett and Cencale Thomas each rushed for TD’s. QB Cade Blackmon threw two touchdown passes to Micah Christian and Antavious Martin.
The defense was led by Cameron Torbert, Jaquon Pritchett and Yyrell Davis.
Both teams played last night at Bulldog Stadium. The games were not complete at press time.
NINTH GRADE WINS OPENER
The OHS ninth grade football team defeated Smiths Station 49-16 Tuesday night.
LaDamin Webb pilled up 178 rushing yards and scored three TDs. Jachious Holmes threw a 31-yard TD pass to Daiton Thomas while rushing for 59 yards.
Elijah Miller and Quinn Thomas returned interceptions for touchdowns.
D.Mark Mitchell is sports director for Qantum Radio and vice president of the A-O Sports Council.