Opelika Celebrates Senior Night, Beats Lee 21-20 In OT

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D. Mark Mitchell

ON THE MARK
D. MARK MITCHELL

Opelika High held senior night last Friday prior to the RE Lee football game. Seniors in the band, cheerleading and on the football team were honored on the field prior to the game.

After the completion of honoring seniors, fans watched the varsity Opelika Bulldogs (5-3 / 5-0) win 21-20 in an overtime thriller. The game was tight until the end — tied 7-7 at halftime and 14-14 at the end of regulation. Opelika’s Tony Powell caught a 4-yard pass from QB Roman Gagliano on the first possession in OT; Charles Gagliano made the PAT to put the Bulldogs up 21-14.

On its overtime possession, Lee answered. The Generals scored a TD on a 1-yard third down run but received an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after the score. The 15-yard penalty was accessed on the extra-point, moving the line of scrimmage to the 18-yard line. This resulted in Lee attempting a two-point conversion instead of kicking the PAT. Ole Miss commit Jarell Stinson knocked the football out of a Lee player’s hand to preserve the one-point victory.

Offensively, Opelika scored 14 points in regulation. Jayvontay Conner caught an 18-yard pass from Glagliano with 10:02 remaining in the first quarter for the first touchdown and Kaden Cooper ran in a 1-yard touchdown with 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter.

This week, the Dogs host Valley (3-4 / 1-4) for homecoming on Friday night at Bulldog Stadium. The Rams (3-4, R 1-4) opened the season with two wins, 18-7 over Beauregard and 14-8 over Lanett. VHS then lost four in a row — Carver 29-14, Russell County 35-20, Sidney Lanier 28-6 and Eufaula 33-0. The Rams broke the losing streak last Thursday night, beating Park Crossing 12-7 at Ram Stadium.

Opelika and Valley have played each other 48 times, each winning 23 games with two ties. The first VHS versus OHS football game was in 1936 and the last game was 2015. OHS won by forfeit last year due to Valley having COVID issues. Opelika has won six in a row: 2020, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012 and 1997. The Rams last win over OHS was in 1996.

A win over Valley gives Opelika the Region 2 championship and a first round playoff game.

OHS FLAG FOOTBALL TEAM UNDEFEATED AFTER FOUR GAMES

The OHS flag football team (5-0) defeated Loachapoka, Eufaula and Central at Bulldog Stadium last week. Due to the large amount of rain, OHS opened up the home schedule inside Bulldog Stadium, using the turf instead of the grass field inside Sam Mason Track.

Opelika outscored Loachapoka 43-6 in the first game of the night, scoring early and often. QB Morgan Watts ran 13 yards for TD and threw a pass to Ashanti Thomas for two point conversion on the opening possession, giving the Bulldogs an 8-0 lead. Other players scoring TD’S included: Z Fanning, who scored on a pick-six; Watts, who scored her second TD on a 10-yard run; and Nyi Walton, who sprinted 5 yards for a score. Reserve QB Jamiah Williams scored the final touch down on an 11-yard run.

OHS started game two against Eufaula in the same fashion as the first game, establishing its dominance early. The Bulldogs scored 26 points on offense while the defense earned a shutout. Thomas caught a 25-yard pass from Watts for the first TD and Z. Smith scored on her second pick-six of the night. Ashley Hilyer scored two touchdowns, reaching the end zone on a 20-yard run and a 5-yard reception.

On Oct. 7, the Bulldogs came out strong against Central, beating them 38-0.

Opelika’s first defensive possession resulted in a pick-six by Zaria Peters. The extra point was good on a pass from Watts to Sanders. Opelika’s second defensive possession also resulted in a interception, this time by Sanders, who ran it in for a touchdown. The first time the Bulldogs were on offense, Watts found Thomas in the endzone for another touchdown. The following time on defense, Fatima Santamaria had a pick-six; The long extra point was good on an 18-yard pass from Watts to Thomas. The defense held strong throughout the game, as Fanning intercepted another pass the next time on defense. Watts then found her favorite target Sanders who ran it in the end zone for another touchdown. In the second half, Watts passed to Hilyer who ran it in for a touchdown.

OHS head coach Jaclyn Button continues to put the girls in position to be successful, despite this being the inaugural season.

OHS CROSS COUNTRY

OHS Cross Country teams participated in the Smiths Station Panther Invitational last weekend. The girls finished fourth with 98 points and the boys placed sixth with 154 points.

Top performers:

Girls — Paola Torres, 17th; Margaret Bice, 18th; Mary Evans Cooper, 20th; Violett Alcorn, 21; Joanne Smith, T-22nd; Susan Gaston, 27th; Jasmine Jordan, 36th; Kiley Brooks, 49th; Kaitlyn Brown, 57th; Shirley Pugh, 62nd; and Ellie Kendrick, 62nd.

Boys — Michael Hart, 22nd; Sam Kemp, 32; Zane Sexton, 34th; Peyton Weston, 36th; Trey White, 39th; Mitch McCullough, 41st; Zaken Shaw, 54th; Mason McCullough, 71st; Alexander Burgess, 73rd; Patrick Seymore, 76th; and Benjamin Owens, 77th.

AUBURN UNVEIL STATUES OF THREE FORMER COACHES INCLUDING PAT DYE

Auburn University honored former head football coaches Cliff Hare, Ralph “Shug” Jordan and Pat Dye last Friday outside Jordan-Hare Stadium. Hundreds gathered, on a beautiful sunny day on the plains to watch several people speak about each coach prior to unveiling statues.

I had the honor of being invited to the meet and greet prior to the 3 p.m. ceremony. Inside the Harbert Recruiting Lounge, guests such as former Auburn football players, University President Dr. Jay Gougue, Board of Trustee member/booster Jimmy Rane, former Athletic Director David Housel, family members and other special guest mingled.

One guest drew the most attention, former Alabama football coach Gene Stallings. The fact an Alabama coach was behind “enemy lines” draws attention, but knowing he flew from Texas to pay respect to an Auburn football coach made him a special guest. One by one guests walked to where coach Stallings sat, introducing themselves and saying “thank you“ for being here.

I am blessed that Stallings appears on my morning radio show, “On the Mark”, every Thursday at 7 a.m. Prior to Dye’s passing, he was on Monday’s at 7 a.m.. Having the two on each week allowed me to get to know both in a unique way, after coaching.

I know the two love each other; Both were assistants under Paul “Bear” Bryant at Alabama. Dye took Stallings spot on Bryant’s staff at Bama when he left to take a head coaching position. The two would go on to meet four times as opposing head coaches. Stallings won all four, but would never mention that out of respect to coach Dye. Both served on Jimmy Rane’s Board at Great Southern Wood and enjoyed visiting with each other.

After Dye passed away, Stallings called me to find out if Auburn University was going to hold a memorial service. I called him back, explaining the university did not wont a large gathering due to COVID concerns but would eventually honor Dye. Stallings informed me he wanted to pay respect to Dye and to keep him updated.

Last Friday, Stallings flew from Parish Texas to Auburn-Opelika Airport and was driven to the Harbert Recruiting Center in Jordan-Hare Stadium, paying respect to his friend, Dye. I met Stallings in the Harbert Recruiting Center 90 minutes prior to the ceremony. I enjoyed every minute and am glad Stallings was on the Plains.

I am proud of the way Auburn treated him. It was not game day, it was a day to pay respect to the legacies of Dye and two other legendary coaches. RIP Coach Dye.

D. Mark Mitchell is the sports director at iHeartMedia, host of “On the Mark” Fox Sports the Game 910-1310, co-chair of the Auburn-Opelika Sports Council, chairman of the Super 7 and Dixie Boys Baseball state director.

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