By D. Mark Mitchell
The OHS volleyball program has struggled to win matches prior to this year, only winning four matches in 2015. This year is different! First year coach Robin Roberts has the team playing .500 ball with a 9-9 record through 18 games. The improvement has sparked the student body’s interest. For instance, the football team decided to attend a match after practice, to show support for their classmates.
The guys began to realize the louder they cheered the better the Lady Bulldogs played. This was the beginning of what has become a recognizable “home court advantage.” Most volleyball teams play in front of small crowds, mostly parents and friends. Volleyball is not offered to young kids; the first opportunity to play is the seventh grade.
The OHS gym was so loud during the area opener against Wetumpka that one of the visiting parents called the OPD (that’s right: the police department!) to complain the noise was too loud. The complaint was addressed and dismissed by Opelika police after a visit to the gym.
The large, supportive, crowds and hard work by the team have helped OHS improve and become a factor in Area volleyball. Opelika will host Auburn tomorrow night at 5:30 p.m. in the OHS Mainstreet gym.
CENTRAL HANDS OPELIKA FIRST FOOTBALL LOSS
The Central Red Devils defeated Opelika, 35-28, in a thriller at Bulldog Stadium last Friday night. The two rivals battled for 48 minutes in front of a standing room only crowd. As expected, the outcome was not decided until the last minute of the game.
Central played a flawless first half, taking a 28-7 lead into the locker room. The Red Devils scored first on a Zion Webb one-yard run. OHS tied the game, 7-7, after John David Worth sprinted 29 yards to the end zone.
Phenix City scored 21 points in the second quarter. Kylin Brooks caught a 59 yard pass from Webb for a score, Webb ran three yards for the third TD and Jamaar Spivey galloped 16 yards for the last score of the first half.
The Bulldogs stormed out of the locker room and scored two touchdowns in the third quarter to pull within 7 points, 28-21. Jaleel Heard scored both TD’s catching John David Worth passes of 18 and 19 yards respectively.
Central scored their final TD with 7:47 left in game. Red Devil quarterback Zion Webb found Jamaal Brooks for a 33-yard catch and run to extend the lead 35-21. Opelika QB John David Worth then threw a 54-yard pass to Heard for his third TD reception which made the score 35-28.
Opelika’s defense held Central out of the end zone late in the fourth quarter to give the offense one more chance to tie the game. OHS took over at the 10 yard line with only a minute left and no timeouts. The Dawgs could not pick up a first down and gave the ball back to Central with 37 seconds left in the game.
Central’s Alvin Rentaria kicked all five of Central’s PATs while Opelika’s Austen Blackmon kicked all four of Opelika’s.
The loss ended Opelika’s 19-game regular season win streak, but does not count in the area standings as Central is a 7A school.
OPELIKA VISITS HELENA
Opelika, 5-1; R, 2-0, travels to Helena Friday night for the first time to play a region game. The Huskies are 2-4 overall, 1-1 in the region in their first year in the 6A classification.
Helena defeated Chilton County 23-13 and Homewood 25-7. The Huskies were beaten by Ramsey 20-10, Mountain Brook 21-14, Pelham 27-23 and Vestavia Hills 34-12.
Opelika will improve to 3-0 in the region with a win, and will be the lone undefeated team in our region.
Look for the Dawgs to win the game with authority. The guys know they must play hard for four quarters to win. Helena is not in the same league with Central and will not have the speed or athleticism of the Phenix City squad.
The Dawgs are banged up after last week’s game which could cause early problems.
Helena has allowed 122 points which means we should score points Friday night. The Dawg defense should create havoc for the Huskie offense and should keep Helena out of the end zone.
Fans can listen to Opelika vs. Helena Friday night beginning at 6:30 p..m on WKKR 97.7 KICKER FM or online at kickerfm.com. You can download the i-Heart Radio APP on your smart phone for no charge. Search for WKKR and listen on your phone.
CROSS COUNTRY HEADS TO JESSE OWENS MEET
OHS girls and boys cross country teams head to Birmingham Saturday to participate in the Jesse Owens Invitational meet at Clay Chalkville High School.
The Jesse Owens Invitational is the largest meet other than the state championship (which is run on the same course) in the state of Alabama.
Opelika senior Ben Garner is favored to win the meet. Garner is ranked no. 1 in Alabama by www.alabamarunners.com
EIGHTH GRADE BEATS SMITH, MOVES TO 4-0
OMS eighth graders beat Smiths Station, 32-6, to run their season’s record to 4-0. The OMS defense earned a shut out as the only Smiths points came on an interception return.
The defense was led by Trevon Moore, who had pick-six himself. Daylen Torbert and JD Tolbert also had interceptions.
The defensive front of Cameron Reese, Jakia Stephons, JP Parker, and Eric Thomas played well.
The Bulldogs scored on two Malik Finley TD throws to Trevon Moore and Eric Watts. Quay Ross caught a two-point conversion. Eric Watts also had two rushing TD’s behind the blocking of Ty Robinson, Kris Epperson, Dillon Phillips, Garret Fitzwater, and John Trask.
OMS travels to Phenix City Thursday, Sept. 29.
OMS SEVENTH GRADE BEATS SMITHS STATION
The seventh graders beat Smiths Station 40-12. Jackson Bates threw three TD passes to Jarell Stinson. Jarell Stinson and Killian Massey also had rushing TDs. Taylor Love added two two-point conversions.
The defense was led by Tylik Hambrick with a fumble recovery and Bryant Torbert with a scoop and score. Jackson McCleod chipped in with several tackles from the end position and Farrtavious Hardnett and Luke Murray controlled the secondary.
OMS will travel to Central Thursday, Sept. 29.
D.Mark Mitchell is sports director for iHeart Media, Alabama Dixie Boys State director and vice president of the A-O Sports Council.