By D. Mark Mitchell
Opelika City Schools started classes for the 2017-18 school year.
The Bulldog football team officially started fall practice Monday, the first at Opelika for Coach Caleb Ross.
Opelika will open the season Aug. 25 at Smiths Station, and have their home opener Sept. 1 against arch-rival Auburn.
Ninety-plus players have been working out for football this summer.
The Opelika All-Sports Booster Club held our annual Corporate Sponsor Appreciation Dinner last Thursday at Bulldog Cafe inside OHS. The dinner, catered by Kitchen 3810, kicked off the 2017-18 athletic year.
Sponsors and special guest heard comments from Opelika Mayor Gary Fuller, OHS Principal Dr. Farrell Seymore and Athletic Director Erik Speakman prior to hearing our featured speaker Coach Caleb Ross.
Corporate sponsors generate close to $90,000 for Opelika Athletics. This allows all sports to have money to operate.
Non-revenue generated sports, such as tennis and golf, can use the funds for operating expenses.
The Opelika Middle School Athletic department receives an allotment of money along with the Bulldog Pride Cheerleaders.
Coach Ross opened his speech with bio of himself and family. He quickly turned his attention to the sponsors, thanking each for contributing money and supporting OCS athletics.
Ross stressed the importance of a strong athletic booster club and having a ‘one team’ attitude, when referencing the city of Opelika.
“It is great to see Mayor Fuller here tonight, along with all the folks that are a part of the cities workforce. Every coach wants to have the support of everyone in a city or town. Opelika is that place,” Ross said. “It takes an enormous amount of cooperation and effort to have the things in place here at Opelika. I am blessed to be the football coach.”
Ross spoke about his team heading into the season.
“It’s been fun, I really like our players. They are polite, well mannered and look you in the eye when speaking. This is a sign of discipline and character, two words I do not take lightly,” Ross said. “I think we have the players to be competitive. Playing 7A teams, Smiths Station, Central and Auburn will make us better.” (Before the classification change in 2015, these three schools were in our area.)
As for the region and season, Ross said he believes OHS can be successful.
“If we stay away from injuries and improving each week, I think we will have a chance to be special,” Ross said.
Opelika will put the pads on at the end of the week.
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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.