by D. Mark Mitchell
Opelika, now 10-1, dominated Paul W Bryant High, 48-12, last Friday night at Bulldog Stadium. The Dawgs exploded for 45 first- half points: 17 points in the first quarter and 28 points in the second. The coaches wanted a fast start to erase any upset thoughts by the Stampede and they certainly got it.
The Dawg defense held PBHS to no first downs and negative yardage in the first half. This allowed the offense to relax and execute.
Austen Blackmon started the scoring with a 19-yard field goal with 8:47 in the first quarter to give OHS a 3-0 lead less than 3:30 into the game. The scoring continued as Jaleel Heard caught a 24-yard pass from QB John David Worth for a touchdown, Conner Smith sprinted 28 yards to the end zone for a score, Worth scored three rushing touchdowns on runs of one, 20 and 11 yards. Branton Barnett scored the last touchdown after catching a 33-yard pass from Cade Blackmon. Austen Blackmon made five PATs and Tyler Sellers added one PAT and kicked a 33-yard field goal.
The Bulldog defense held Paul Bryant scoreless until late in the game. The Stampede scored two touchdowns, missing both PATs for a 48-12 final score.
Starting running back Weldrin Ford saw limited action due to his injured hand from two weeks ago. Branton Barnett started and ran for 93 yards on 10 carries. Jaleel Heard continued to lead the receivers, catching nine passes for 86 yards.
OF THE PLAYOFFS
The Daphne Trojans (9-2) entered the 2016 season with a new coach after longtime head coach Glenn Vickery retired in the spring. The Trojans hired former Daphne player Kenny King to be head coach early in the summer.
It took a few weeks to get Coach King and his team on the same page as DHS opened the season with back-to-back losses (Davidson 35-28 and Spanish Fort 26-7), before winning nine straight games. The Trojans beat Saraland 17-14, Leflore 31-0, Fairhope 28-0, BS Rain 50-3, Gulf Shores 52-7, Blount 28-18, Robertsdale 41-7, Baldwin Co 54-13 in the regular season before beating Lanier 24-6 in the first round of the playoffs.
DHS has scored 360 points while allowing only 129 points for the season. OHS has scored 410 points and allowed 152 points.
DHS played Lanier Thursday night at Cramton Bowl in Montgomery while Opelika played PBHS Friday at home. Both teams’ coaching staffs were able to scout each other because of the convenient schedule.
The Trojans and Bulldogs have played nine games against each other, all in the playoffs. Daphne leads the series with six wins. However, Opelika has won two straight, 24-17 in 2012 and 51-0 last year.
Although the two have only played nine times, the Daphne vs. Opelika game has become a “must see” game for Opelika fans.
Opelika will travel to Daphne Thursday evening and spend the night. Coach Blackmon wanted to try something different when traveling to Baldwin County. Opelika City Schools are closed Friday for Veterans Day, so the kids will not miss any classes.
Opelika and Daphne both play good defense, each allowing less than 13 points per game. The team that can control the line of scrimmage will win. Weldrin Ford’s injury could be a factor. The senior is playing with a soft cast on his right wrist and hand. Although left-handed, both hands have to be used when running the football.
Quarterback John David Worth has been near-perfect all season. He and Jaleel Heard need to have big nights, along with Jordan Heard and Branton Barnett. The size of the Bulldog offensive line gives OHS an edge on offense.
I think the Dawgs will beat Daphne. The game will be close in the first half. Look for OHS to flex their muscles in the second half and beat the Trojans in Daphne.
The winner of the Opelika/Daphne game will play the winner of the Spanish Fort/Hillcrest game in the playoff quarterfinals. If Opelika wins and Hillcrest wins, the game will be at Bulldog Stadium. If Spanish Fort beats Hillcrest, the Bulldogs will travel to Spanish Fort.
WKKR 97.7 FM
Fans can listen to the Opelika/ Daphne game Friday night, beginning at 6:30 p.m. with the Coach Brian Blackmon pre-game show. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. You can also listen online at kickerfm.com or you can download the i-Heart Radio App on your smart phone. You will hear former Opelika Coach Larry Gore and former OHS QB Jeff Sasser analyze the game while I,( D.Mark) will handle the play-by-play. Mallory Mitchell will report from the sideline. The game will be on WKKR 97.7 KICKER FM.
GARNER WINS CROSS COUNTRY SECTIONAL MEET
Opelika senior Ben Garner won the Sectional cross country meet at Kiesel Park in Auburn last Thursday.
The OHS girls finished third as a team and the boys finished second, missing a tie for first by one point. Both teams qualified for the state meet in Moulton this weekend.
Garner is looking to win his first state championship. The senior is overcoming a nagging injury to his hip. Ben has the state’s fastest time of 2016. That time was achieved in the Jesse Owens Meet which was held on the same course as the state championship.
THE RED AND BLACK DAWG
The OMS and the OHS Bulldog wrestling teams will participate in a preseason exhibition Nov. 17 at the OMS gym.
The Red and Black Dawg Duals exhibition will allow the Opelika community to witness the young men who take part in the toughest sport in the world show off their skills. These dedicated young men have worked to improve in the off-season and preseason.
Admission will be $5 for adults, $3 for students. See you there at the Opelika Middle School Gym Nov. 17 beginning at 5 p.m.
‘ON THE MARK’ RADIO SHOW
Catch D. Mark’s “On The Mark” radio show Monday through Friday from 7-9 a.m. on WTLM AM 1520. Listen to Mark, Jeff, Coach Dan and guests or call in to ask your questions or voice your views. You can also listen online at kickerfm.com.
D.Mark Mitchell is sports director for iHeart Media, Alabama Dixie Boys State director and vice president of the A-O Sports Council.