By D. Mark Mitchell
The Opelika football team (5-4) will host St Paul’s (7-3), Friday night at Bulldog Stadium, in the first round of the AHSAA class 6A playoffs.
The two teams enter Friday’s game with different resumes.
Opelika’s schedule was set up to have an off week prior to entering the playoffs.
On a different note, the Saints defeated region foe Robertsdale 23-14 last Friday night, securing the three seed.
Region 1 has nine teams, which translates into eight region games and two non-region games.
Bulldog coach Erik Speakman, appearing on “On the Mark” last week, said he was happy to have an open week heading into the playoffs.
“It gives us a chance to heel, rest our legs, evaluate some things we need to improve and focus on playing St. Paul’s in the first round at home,” Speakman said.
This is the first meeting between St Paul’s and Opelika. The private Catholic school is a Charter Member of the Alabama High School Athletics Association (AHSAA) , joining in the 70s .
The association uses two factors to determine the classification for private/member schools:
1- each student in the 10-12th grades are counted as 1.35 student.
2- after winning a state championship in a ‘sport,’ you move up class the following year. If you go two years without winning a championship in that particular sport, the team will drop one class this continues until the team is 7A or drops to the school’s classification.
St. Paul’s enters Friday’s game having won three out of the last four, 5A football State Championships. The Saints are led by one of the best coaches in Alabama, Steve Mask. The veteran coach has compiled an incredible 79-16 record in seven seasons, an average record of 11-2.
Although the statistics above is impressive and daunting, there some positive things that go in Opelika’s favor.
According to the State Department of Education’s Dailey enrollment figures, St Paul’s has 418 students in grades 10-12.
Opelika has 966 students in the same grades, 10-12.
Speakman talked about the difference between the two schools.
“St. Paul’s has 4A numbers, the 1.35 factor moves them to 5A. The new competitive balance factor makes them a 6A. Maybe we can take advantage of some things,” Speakman said.
Regardless of the factors above, numbers do not play the game.
Opelika and St. Paul’s enter the game on win streaks.
The Saints are in the midst of a three-game win streak, with victories coming over B.C. Rain 50-0, Daphne 29-27 and Robertsdale 23-14.
UMS Wright defeated SPHS, 10-0 in the season opener. St Paul’s beat St Stanislaus (Ms) 35-7, Baldwin County 17-7, Blount 11-7, Gulf Shores 21-0.
Spanish Fort (22-0) and Saraland (45-14) beat St Paul’s.
The winner of Friday’s game will play the winner of Park Crossing and Bessemer City in the second round, next Friday.
You can purchase tickets at Bubbas Medicine Shop and Victory Design until Friday at noon. Fans can purchase tickets at the gate. Admission is $8 per person and there can be no reserve seats in the playoffs.
Fans can listen to Opelika and St Paul’s Friday night on WKKR 97.7 kicker FM or online at kickerfm.com
Opelika high’s Girls and boys basketball start playing games in the coming days.
The boys host Prattville Thursday in the Sports Arena.
Ninth grade boys start at 4 p.m., JV at 5 p.m. and Varsity at 6.
The girls travel to north Alabama for the “Hazel Green Tripp-off Classic.”
Some of the top teams in Alabama are playing in the tournament.
The AHSAA Super 7 football Championships will be in Auburn Jordan-Hare Stadium December 5-7.
Two teams in seven different classifications will play for the Championship on Pat Dye Field.
The cities of Auburn and Opelika partnered fifteen years ago for the purpose of luring the Super 7 to Auburn University and Bryant -Denny’ Stadium.
D. Mark Mitchell is sports director for iHeart Media, Alabama Dixie Boys State Director and vice president of the A-O Sports Council.