By D. Mark Mitchell
The Opelika Bulldogs tied with Wetumpka and Benjamin Russell for the Region 3 Championship, with each team finishing 5-1 in region play.
The AHSAA lists seven steps to follow when two or more teams are tied. After these seven steps, other procedures are listed with letters, A-Q. After the letter ‘P’, option ‘Q’ calls for a coin flip.
The three-way tie in Region 3 was broken based on each team’s performance against non-conference opponents. Opelika, 6A in classification, continues to play 7A rivals Auburn, Central and Smiths Station. Opelika played 6A Carver in the fourth non-region date that was available.
Opelika beat Carver and Smiths Station and lost to Auburn and Central. Carver won four games while Smiths Station finished 0-10. Benjamin Russell and Wetumpka beat teams in lower classifications, which resulted in Wetumpka winning the tie-breaker.
After determining the winner, the second and third teams battle for the second spot. Because of Benjamin Russell’s 19-14 victory over Opelika earlier in the year, the Wildcats grabbed the second spot and the Bulldogs finished third.
Despite the tie-breaking procedures going against Opelika, I applaud the Opelika leadership for continuing to compete against Auburn, Central and Smiths Station in football and other sports.
TRAVELS TO DAPHNE FRIDAY
Daphne (8-2) will host Opelika (7-3) in the first round of the 6A AHSAA playoffs Friday night at 7 pm. The Trojans clinched second place in Region 1 by beating Baldwin County 24-7 last Friday.
Daphne is riding a five-game win streak, after losing to 7A Fairhope 20-17 in September. The Trojans opened the season with a 3-0 win over Davidson before losing to rival Spanish Fort in an 8-7 heartbreaker. Daphne beat Saraland 26-20, Leflore 22-0, B.C. Rain 38-8, Gulf Shores 31-28, Blount 31-10, Robertsdale 35-7 and Baldwin County 24-3. For the season, the Trojans scored 234 points and allowed 104 points, for a 23-10 point differential favoring Daphne.
Opelika and Daphne have played 10 games against each other dating back to 2000. The Trojans lead the series 6-4 but have lost three in a row to Opelika, 24-17 in 2012, 51-0 in 2015 and 35-6 last season.
Coach Caleb Ross will take part of the team to Daphne Thursday night and stay at a motel in Daphne. The remaining players will join the team Friday in time for the pre-game meal.
The Bulldogs will have all players available except Blake Landers (out for the season) and Brantan Barnett (game-to-game). This is the healthiest Opelika has been since its season opener. Daphne’s defense is their best unit. The Bulldogs need to score points often and put the pressure on the Trojan offense to score. Our defense must continue to play at a high level. When two good defensive teams play, points are important.
The game could come down to special teams. I think punter Dalton Cooper and placekicker Tyler Sellers will make a difference Friday night.
Ross said Opelika can win if they control the lines of scrimmage, win the turnover battle, win special teams, play at a high intensity for 48 minutes and make big plays while minimizing those for Daphne.
OPELIKA AT DAPHNE WKKR 97.7
Opelika fans can listen to the first-round playoff game live from Daphne on WKKR 97.7 Kicker FM. The Coach Caleb Ross pregame show starts at 6:30 p.m. Fans can also listen online at kicker.com or download the I-Heart radio app on for smart phones.
The broadcast team of D. Mark Mitchell, former Opelika head coach Larry Gore, Jeff Sasser and sideline reporter Mason Black bring fans the action live from Daphne.
The Lady Bulldog basketball team opened the 2017 season with a 71-53 over 7A Robert E. Lee Tuesday night at the OHS Sports Arena against Robert E. Lee. The results were not available at press time.
Coach Devin Booth, head Coach and assistant athletic director, starts her ninth season as the head coach. The Lady Dawgs have won four-straight area titles and should have a chance for a fifth championship at season’s end. Opelika will travel to Hazel Green Friday for the two-day ‘Hazel Green Tip-Off Tournament’.
Coach John Wadsworth starts his 12th season as the OHS boys head man. Wadsworth will take his team to Prattville Thursday night to open the 2017 season. The boys will play their home opener Nov. 14 against Jefferson Davis.
D.Mark Mitchell is sports director for iHeart Media, Alabama Dixie Boys State director and vice president of the A-O Sports Council.