By D. Mark Mitchell
The annual Opelika High Football banquet was held last week at Bulldog Cafe inside OHS. The banquet allowed OHS football coaches to recognize the seniors on the team and especially team captains, individuals with the highest GPA’s and the recipient of the Mike Spain Character Award.
The senior cheerleaders were also recognized during the banquet.
Opelika Mayor Gary Fuller attended and spoke about the joy and pride the citizens of Opelika felt for the team. Mayor Fuller applauded the players, coaches, cheerleaders and parents during his comments.
“The 2016 OHS football team, players, coaches, support staff and cheerleaders brought so much happiness and pride to those residing in Opelika and the many fans all over. Winning your third straight region championship, advancing to the 6A state championship game and, of course, beating rival Auburn High School made for a wonderful season. We all wanted to win a championship, but unfortunately, we came up a few points short. Laura and I, along with many, enjoyed the season,” said Mayor Fuller.
A highlight video reviewing the season, the championship game and senior highlights was a huge hit.
Coach Blackmon spoke about his team, specifically the seniors.
This year’s seniors finished with three region championships and a 34-5 record and finished as Alabama state runner-up in Class 6A.
Blackmon does not personally single out players on his team for awards. Instead, he announces the team captains, the Mike Spain Character Award recipient and the top GPA’s among the seniors.
The players vote for team captains while the coaching staff votes for the Mike Spain Character Award. The student athletes’ GPA is based on grades, of course.
Team captains for the 2016 season were John David Worth, Jaleel Heard, Rakavious Chambers, Will Boiler, Zach Yancey and Weldrin Ford.
The GPA awards went to Rakavious Chambers, Weldrin Ford, Tristan Black, Carter Milner, Austin Blackmon and Henry Smith T. Henry Smith T earned highest GPA on the team with a 4.60. The average GPA for the entire team was 3.0, an outstanding average.
The Mike Spain Character Award went to Tristan Black. Coach Blackmon explained this award, other than GPA, is the highest honor for an Opelika football player.
Mike Spain, now deceased, retired as a teacher at OHS several years ago. Spain volunteered his time to help many students including athletes with their academics and other issues or concerns that arise in the lives of students in the growing up process.
The award comes with a plaque and a $500 scholarship to help Tristan with college expenses.
Congratulations to the award winners and to the entire 2016 football team.
The Opelika girls and boys basketball teams hosted Russell County last week at the Sports Arena.
The OHS girls improved to 11-5 after dominating Russell County, 74-42. Anita Payne led the Lady Dawgs with 22 points, with Alexis Browning adding 13 points.
Russell County High School defeated OHS 68-53 in their game. The Bulldogs started slowly, trailing 19 at halftime. The Dawgs won the second half but couldn’t overcome the halftime hole, losing by 15. Austen Payne scored 12 points, while Jordan Heard and Jamius Mitchell scored nine points each.
Both Opelika teams were scheduled to play at the Sports Arena on the OHS campus last Friday night but the games were postponed due to the inclement weather.
Opelika will host Auburn Feb. 2. Junior varsity boys start at 4:30, with varsity girls and boys to follow.
The Opelika Middle School seventh grade basketball team defeated Russell County 50-36 last week at OMS. Jarrell Stinson led the team with 15 points and Tre Roberts added eight. The team improved its record to 5-2.
The OMS eighth grade improved to 10-1 with a 58-25 victory over Russell County. Trevon Moore led the team with 16 points and JaWann Fields scored 10. The bench added 18 points including eight points from Will Beams.
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D.Mark Mitchell is sports director for iHeart Media, Alabama Dixie Boys State director and vice president of the A-O Sports Council.