OHS Athletics year in review

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By D. Mark Mitchell

sports columnist

OHS ATHLETICS YEAR IN REVIEW
The start of the 2014-15 school year was a new “year” for many at OHS including, teachers, students, administration, employees, theater students and band members, just to name a few.
The Opelika High School Athletic Department went through a historic year. The AHSAA added another class to the “old” six classifications, giving us 1A, 2A, 3A, 4A, 5A, 6A and 7A.
Opelika remained in 6A, 72 students shy of  7A. Cross-town rival AHS jumped to 7A along with other traditional rivals Central and Smiths Station. This was a change no one wanted, all fans want AHS, CHS and SSHS to be our region or area opponents.
Athletic Director and Head Football Coach Brian Blackmon scheduled Auburn and Central anyway. Smith Station rejected his offer to continue to play. The Panthers were without a head coach during the time schedules were being made and then-SSHS principal Dr. Jason Yohn refused to play Opelika for the next two seasons (2014 and 2015).
Every other sport at Opelika continues to play our rivals: Auburn, Central and Smiths Station. The only difference: the results of the games or matches do not count in the area standings.
Having to play different teams in the region or area made the year seem different. Opelika fans learned about new teams such as Valley, Benjamin Russell, Russell County, Chelsea , Pell City and Chilton County.
The year turned out to be one of the best in the history of OHS athletics. The football team won the region championship with a 7-0 record, beat AHS and advanced to the second round of playoffs. Six wrestlers earned  trips to the AHSAA State tournament. The boys cross country team won the section championship and finished second in the state. The boys basketball team won the area regular season and tournament championships, advancing to the elite 8. The boys soccer team won the section for the first time in school history. The baseball team won the area championship and advanced to the final 8. The boys tennis team won the sectional and finished third at the state. Turner Huddleston qualified for the state gold tournament.
The boys track team won the section meet and the AHSAA state championship. The girls cross country team won the section and finished in the top five in the state meet. Girls basketball won the area regular season and tournament championship for the third consecutive year. The girls track team won the section meet and finished third in the AHSAA state meet. The girls soccer team won the section for the first time in school history. The girls tennis team won the section and advanced to the state tournament.
The OHS cheerleaders won their competition, finishing with blue ribbons in several categories including best team.
So you see, the 2014-15 athletic year was special, filled with area championships, high finishes in state competition and a state championship in track.
Brian Blackmon, athletic director and head football coach; Devin Booth, assistant athletic director in charge of female athletics and head girls basketball coach; and Erik Speakmon, assistant athletic director in charge of eligibility deserve credit for supporting every sport at OHS. The coaches of each sport have the necessary equipment and other items needed to be successful.
The All-Sports Booster Club also helps each sport with funding and other needs that arise on a daily basis.
Over the past 28 years, I have served on the Opelika All-Sports Booster Club Board of Directors and am currently President. In this, along with my broadcasting duties as “Voice of the Bulldogs”, I work closely with the Athletic Department.
I see the “behind the scenes” look of the Athletic Department. It is amazing and also difficult to understand how each sport operates and how the needs of each sport are balanced. I applaud the coaches and support staff for taking their jobs seriously and spending the time needed to be successful. I tell Coach Blackmon all the time: I would not want to do your job.
The next time you see an OHS coach, tell him/her thank you. They deserve a pat on the back and words of encouragement. The coaches touch more lives than most.
The OHS Athletic Department continues to grow and get better with time. The 2014-15 athletic year will be remembered for many reasons, like some I wrote in this article, the majority of the memories will be positive.
SOFTBALL
Longtime OHS softball head coach Stephanie Brown resigned last week. Brown spent 16 of her 18 years in Opelika as head coach. Coach Brown built our softball program after the change from slow pitch to fast pitch. The Lady Bulldogs finished 20-20 this season, one win away from qualifying for the state playoffs.
Opelika High has started the search for a new head coach.
FOOTBALL
Opelika concludes spring practice today with a spring game against Park Crossing. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. at Bulldog Stadium. Tickets are $7 and the Corporate Sponsor passes can be used for admittance.
This is Coach Blackmon’s seventh spring as a head coach and 20th overall. The Bulldogs have new players at several positions. Three year starting quarterback Mathew Christian and center Drew Kyser have graduated. These two touched the football 98{44c616e11cf70d617c8dd92fb0bc15f41001df771f775c6b004238009c89a3f0} of the time on offense. Two defensive linemen and the leading tackler, Roy Yancey, have graduated. Three year punter Winston Smith T also graduated.
Tonight’s spring game will give you a chance to look at the new Bulldogs in a game setting. We have promising players at every position. The spring game also allows coaches to see young athletes play in a game.
LISTEN TO SPRING GAME
You can listen to the Opelika vs Park Crossing game tonight on WKKR 97.7 Kicker FM starting at 5:50pm. Kickoff is set for 6pm.
I will handle the play-by-play duties, Jeff Sasser and former OHS Head Coach Larry Gore will analyze the action while Wade Meadows roams the sideline with live reports from the field.
ALL-SPORTS BOOSTER CORPORATE SPONSORS
The Opelika All-Sports Booster Club will be mailing renewal forms to last year’s sponsors. The plans are the same with no price increase. I will write about the different sponsor packages next week. If you are interested in becoming a Corporate Sponsor, call me at 334-319-0467 or email at www.foxonthemark@yahoo.com
D.Mark Mitchell is sports director for iHeart Media, Alabama Dixie Boys State director and vice president of the  A-O Sports Council.

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