By D. Mark Mitchell
The Opelika High School football team beat St. Paul’s 20-10 in the second round of the AHSAA 6A State Playoffs last Friday at Bulldog Stadium. The two teams battled in the cold on a wet turf in front of a small but faithful crowd.
Both teams went scoreless in the first quarter, but the Saints took the lead on a 34-yard TD run by Reggie Bracy with 11:29 left in the second quarter. St Paul’s tried to add three points to the lead, attempting a short field goal on the last play of the first half. Jaylen Stinson blocked the kick, picked up the football and returned it 70 yards for the Opelika touchdown as time expired in the second quarter. The ensuing PAT was no good, leaving St. Paul’s with a 7-6 lead at halftime.
The Saints added a 34-yard field goal by Grayson Miles to extend their lead to 10-6 with 3:49 left in the third quarter. The Bulldogs took the lead after Eric Watts scored on a one-yard run and Rowton added the PAT to make the score 13-10, with nine seconds left in the third quarter.
Opelika’s defense held St. Paul’s to fewer than 90 yards of offense in the second half which allowed the comeback and win. Watts scored his second TD of the game on a one-yard run with three minutes left in the game. Rowton added his second PAT to give Opelika a 20-10 lead and final score.
The Bulldogs travel to Hueytown Friday night in the quarterfinal round of the AHSAA playoffs. The Golden Gophers enter with an 11-1 record, including playoff wins over Selma 44-24 and Eufaula 56-49 in overtime last Friday night.
Hueytown defeated the following teams in the regular season: Homewood 32-19, Helena 32-24, Hillcrest Tuscaloosa 39-17, Brookwood 48-6, Cullman 33-16, Northridge 42-14, Bessemer City 56-7, McAdory 34-20 and Paul Bryant 38-21. The Golden Gophers’ only loss happened in a 7-0 Week 10 loss to Briarwood.
Hueytown features one of the top running backs in the Alabama in Roydell Williams (a University of Alabama commit) and an offense that scored 454 points while allowing only 224 points on defense. On the other hand, Opelika scored 351 points but only allowed 182 yards. The Bulldogs have the better defense but Hueytown may have a slight edge in offense.
Opelika has played the tougher schedule and has been in this type of game for many years. Look for the playoff experience and the consistent winning program of Opelika to pay dividends. The Bulldogs cannot have turnovers or big plays against the defense.
The winner advances to play the winner of Park Crossing/Spanish Fort on the road.
Fans can listen to Hueytown v. Opelika Friday at 6:30 p.m. on WKKR 97.7 Kicker FM and online at kickerfm.com.
Opelika’s boys basketball team opened the season with a 79-76 loss at Beauregard last week. The Hornets led 20-15 after the first quarter, 39-32 at halftime, and 57-47 after the third quarter.
Opelika outscored Beauregard 29-22 in the fourth quarter, tying the game with fewer than 30 seconds in the game. The Hornets nailed a three-pointer at the buzzer to beat Opelika by three points. Rashaad Frye led Opelika with a game-high 24 points, Brandon Howard scored 19, Grady Bynum notched 13 and Ja Carr added 12.
The boys played Carver in the opener of the newly renovated Mainstreet Gym inside Opelika. The game was not over by press time.
The Lady Bulldogs’ basketball team (3-) blew out Beauregard 63-15 behind 16 points from Haley Sanders and Kaitlyn Bryant’s 13 points.
The Lady Bulldogs also beat Hardaway of Columbus 62-44 last weekend behind 21 points from Claire Worth, 17 from Haley Sanders and 12 from Kaitlyn Bryant. Opelika lost 61-42 to Carrollton High (Georgia) but Sanders continued her hot shooting, scoring 15 points while Ananda Hughley added 10 points.
You may have noticed the electronic billboard next to Tom Bryan’s State Farm office and Jack’s restaurant advertising Opelika High School football. According to OCS Public Relations Coordinator Becky Brown, the billboard was rented to advertise different aspects of Opelika City Schools including the OHTS’s performance of Annie earlier this fall and Opelika football. The board will feature advertisement for upcoming Christmas concerts by OCS students. She also stated the billboard will change throughout the year in hopes of promoting Opelika City Schools.
D. Mark Mitchell is sports director for iHeart Media, Alabama Dixie Boys State Director and vice president of the A-O Sports Council.