By D. Mark Mitchell
Coach Brian Blackmon loaded up his team on buses and headed to Pelham last Friday night for the Dawgs’ last regular season football game of 2016. This was his first return to Pelham since guiding his 2012 team to a 49-23 win over the Panthers in the first round of the playoffs. After that 2012 victory over Pelham, the Dawgs reeled off three straight wins – Daphne, Auburn and Carver – to earn a trip to the school’s first Super 6 Championship game.
This year’s win was not as easy as was the 2012 one. The Hornets, 1-9, stung the Dawgs with 17 first half points while holding OHS to a field goal.
Will Boler started the third quarter with an interception; then Opelika scored 28 straight points to take a 31-17 lead into the fourth quarter. After the interception, John David Worth completed a 14-yard pass to Jaleel Heard for a TD. Worth scored the next touchdown on a 18-yard run, tying the game, 17-17. Worth then found Jaleel Heard with a pass for his second receiving touchdown.
PHS fumbled in the end zone on the next possession, giving the Dawgs two points for the safety. Junior quarterback Cade Blackmon closed out the third quarter with a 48-yard TD pass to Jaleel Heard. Austen Blackmon kicked two field goals, 28 and 38 yards, and was three-for-four on PATs.
Opelika’s defense held Pelham to 43 second- half yards after yielding 152 yards in the first half.
Coach Brian Blackmon and staff guided the Bulldogs to a 9-1 regular season record while earning their third straight Region 3 championship. The Bulldogs are 21-0 in region games over the past three seasons. Opelika beat rival Auburn earlier this season for the third straight time, 28-0. (It is worth noting that OHS has beaten AHS four out of the last five games). Central of Phenix City handed OHS their only loss of the season, 35-28 in week six.
Opelika has this week off to prepare for the first round of the AHSAA 6A playoffs which begin Nov. 4. The Dawgs will host Paul Bryant High School of Tuscaloosa at Bulldog Stadium with kickoff set for 7 p.m. Playoff tickets will go on sale Oct. 31 – Nov. 4 at Bubba’s Medicine Shop and Victory Design. Tickets are $8.
A WEEK TO REST
Opelika needs this week of rest after playing 10 straight games. Several players have bumps, bruises and are tired. Leading rusher, Weldrin Ford underwent surgery on his hand Saturday after being hurt in the first quarter against Pelham. The senior has rushed for 1,068 yards on 164 carries and scored 18 touchdowns. Ford will rest for two weeks and play in the first round of the playoffs with a soft cast, which is allowed by the AHSAA.
If Opelika is to play in the Super 7 at Jordan-Hare Stadium Dec. 2, we would have to win four straight games. The playoff brackets will be set this Saturday at the AHSAA offices.
An early peek at the bracket shows Daphne, Blount, Spanish Fort and Hillcrest waiting. Who knows, maybe Opelika can return to the 6A championship game at Jordan-Hare on December 2 at 7 p.m.
The girls and boys cross country teams participated in the Tiger Classic meet last Saturday, hosted by Auburn High School at Keisel Park.
Opelika senior Ben Garner, the number one ranked runner in the state, sat the race out to rest his body for the sectional meet this Thursday.
Savannah Karl led the OHS girls, finishing 23rd with a time of 22:18.54 while sophomore Marcus Chandler finished 17th with a time of 17:33.55 to lead the boys. Braden Holloway was 18th, running 17:42.58.
The two teams will return to Kiesel Park Oct. 27, for the Section 3 Meet. The OHS girls start at 11 a.m. while the boys start at 11:40 a.m.
The Opelika Middle School eighth grade football team defeated archrival Auburn 14-8 last Thursday at Bulldog Stadium to finish the season with a perfect 8-0 record.
The OMS Offense was led by Eric Watts’s two rushing touchdowns and a two-point conversion.
OMS trailed 8-6 with three minutes left in the game. Malik Finley completed huge passes to Keyshawn Tolefree and Will Beams on the game-winning drive. Beams caught the game-winning pass. The offensive line was led by Kris Epperson, Dillon Phillips, John Trask, TY Robinson, and Garrett Fitzwater.
The OMS defense was led by Dino Martin’s blocked punt and Eric Thomas’s fumble recovery. Braylon Prince, and Ladamian Rowell tied for most tackles while Baker Rowten handled all the kicking duties.
Congratulations to Coach Jamie Ferguson and his staff.
OMS SEVENTH GRADE BEAT
The Opelika Middle School seventh grade football team blew out archrival Auburn 48-12 last Thursday at Bulldog Stadium in the last game of the season, finishing with a 6-2 record.
The offense was led by Jarell Stinson’s five rushing TDs and a two point conversion. Jackson Bates added a rushing TD and completed a pass to Tre Roberts for a two point conversion and Jaden McGhee added another rushing TD and a two point conversion. The offensive line played one of their best games according to Coach Dustin Ferguson.
The entire defensive team played well including Tylik Hambrick, Marsiah Collins, and Jackson McCleod.
Congratulations to Coach Ferguson and his staff on a successful season and for making football fun.
D.Mark Mitchell is sports director for iHeart Media, Alabama Dixie Boys State director and vice president of the A-O Sports Council.