OHS hosts Paul W. Bryant in first round of playoffs


The Opelika Bulldogs (9-1) host Paul W. Bryant High School of Tuscaloosa (4-6) at Bulldog Stadium 7 p.m. Friday in the first round of the AHSAA 6A playoffs.
The Dawgs were off last Friday, while Paul Bryant lost to Homewood 48-14 in Birmingham. The off-week came at a perfect time for OHS. Having to play 10 straight weeks of physical football took a toll on the team. Some players’ injuries required rest and time to heal, others needed to rest their bodies and prepare for what could be a five game season, providing the Bulldogs go all the way to the state championship in Jordan-Hare Stadium on Dec. 2.
One of the most severe injuries happened in the Pelham game. Senior running back Weldrin Ford hurt his thumb in the first quarter. The injury required Ford to have surgery the next day, Oct. 22. Coach Blackmon talked about Ford’s injury, saying, “We will wait for his doctor to clear Weldrin to play, then I will make the decision when he will play. Weldrin has been a delight this year, gaining over a thousand yards (1,048 rushing yards.) He plays a vital role on this team but his health is more important.”
Paul W. Bryant finished fourth in Region 4 behind Hillcrest, McAdory and Bessemer City. Bryant defeated Brookwood 33-14, Selma 45-7, Central (Tuscaloosa) 23-19 and Northridge 36-14. Their six losses were to Tuscaloosa County 38-21, Plant (Florida) 51-21, McAdory 47-13, Hillcrest 61-0, Bessemer City 35-14 and Homewood 48-14. The Stampede allowed 334 points while scoring 220 points for an average score of 22-33. Obviously, you can’t win many games allowing more points than you score.
Opelika needs to start fast and score quick and play solid defense. They do not need to give Bryant any thoughts that they can win the game. When a team is 4-6, it is hard for it to come from behind on the road to win. I look for Opelika to play a solid game and beat the Stampede handily.
The AHSAA is in charge of all playoff games. This means no reserved seats, admission is $8 and everyone must have a ticket or w pass issued by the AHSAA or Opelika High School. The gates will open at 5:30 p.m. Friday at Bulldog Stadium. Fans can purchase tickets at Bubba’s Medicine Shop and Victory Design daily until noon Friday.
You can listen to the Opelika vs Paul W. Bryant football game Friday beginning at 6:30 p.m. for the “Coach Brian Blackmon Pre-Game Show,” live coverage from Bulldog Stadium at 6:45 with kickoff set for 7 p.m. Former OHS head football Coach Larry Gore and former OHS quarterback Jeff Sasser will provide commentary while I, D.Mark Mitchell, handle the play-by-play. Mallory Mitchell will provide reports from the sideline.
You can listen on WKKR 97.7 KICKER FM or online at kickerfm.com, click listen Live. You can listen on your smart phone by downloading the free  i-Heart Radio app, search WKKR and click play.
The common question that I hear often is, “Can we (Opelika) win the state championship?”  No one knows the answer, but it is fun to speculate.
This is my inside look at the 6A South bracket.
If Opelika beats Paul W. Bryant, we will play the winner of Daphne at Lanier. If Daphne wins, Opelika will travel to Daphne next week. If Lanier wins, Opelika will host the Poets in the second round.
If Opelika wins the second round game against Daphne or Lanier (I predict Daphne,)the Dawgs will play the winner of Hillcrest v. Spanish Fort. This is contingent on those two teams winning the first two rounds. (Hillcrest hosts Ben Russell while Spanish Fort hosts Carver.)
Opelika will host Hillcrest if they beat Spanish Fort. If the Toros win, OHS will return to Spanish Fort in a rematch of last year’s quarterfinal game.
If Opelika advances to the semifinals, odds are the opponent would be either Blount, Wetumpka or Park Crossing.
We have a lot of football to play in the next five weeks. Any of these teams can be eliminated on any given night. That is why we play the game!
Opelika girls and boys cross country teams will compete in the Sectional meet Nov. 3, at Kiesel Park in Auburn. The 6A girls race starts at 11 a.m. and the boys start at 11:30 a.m.
Opelika senior Ben Garner is the number- one ranked cross country runner in Alabama. Garner has held the number-one ranking the entire regular season. Ben has been dealing with a nagging pain while running. He took off two races to give his body rest/healing time to improve his chances of winning the state championship. Garner does not need to run his best time in the Sectional meet to qualify for the state meet which will be held Nov. 12 in Moulton.
The OHS girls and boys are each favored to win their sectional meet.
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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