By D. Mark Mitchell
The Opelika High football team, 13-2, walked off Pat Dye Field inside Jordan-Hare Stadium six points shy of winning the school’s first state Football championship. Ramsay (13-2) won the 6A championship 21-16 last Friday night.
Opelika fans flocked to Jordan-Hare Stadium to support this Opelika football team. Opelika and Ramsay played in front of the largest crowd of the seven championship games. Friday’s total attendance was 26,754, with the vast majority from Opelika.
Several factors contributed to the loss.
Opelika quarterback John David Worth left the field at halftime and never returned. His shoulder was hurt during the first quarter after taking a hit. It was obvious something was wrong when Worth’s pass to Jaleel Heard that would have resulted in a touchdown fell to the ground 10 yards short. The senior gave it all he had, trying to guide his team to a championship, despite not being able to move his arm without pain.
Two uncharacteristic fumbles, one at the Ramsay 31-yard line in the fourth quarter, hurt the Bulldogs. The defense gave up two big plays, each for 60 plus yards.
Then, Ramsay faked a fourth-and-30 from their own 15, threw a pass to a ineligible receiver for the first down. Not one of the eight officials caught the infraction.
The proper call, a penalty on Ramsay for illegal touching, would have resulted in a 5-yard penalty and loss of down. Opelika’s ball, first-and-goal from Ramsey’s nine-yard line.
Instead Ramsay kept their drive alive at the Opelika 45-yard line. To err is human … .
Perhaps one factor, though, needs to be written first: Ramsay was a great football team. The Rams lost one game to an Alabama team, 7A Mountain Brook 17-13. The Rams committed four turnovers in that game. The other loss was to a large Georgia high school team.
Sometimes the other team is better than your team. Add injuries and mistakes, and there goes the game.
In my opinion, this season was one of Coach Brian Blackmon’s best coaching performances in his eight years as the Bulldog head coach. The 2016 team started with many questions. There were no returning starters at the following positions, quarterback, running back, center, offensive line, defense line, defensive backs, punter, kicker and placekicker.
Coach Blackmon and his staff worked long hours in the summer and fall coaching these players, teaching them how to become a team. The end result, a region championship, wins over rivals Auburn and Benjamin Russell, a playoff win at Spanish Fort , a school record 13 wins and a trip to the 6A championship game in the Super 7.
The 2016 OHS football team made the entire city of Opelika proud. Every day several people would stop me to talk about “them Dawgs”. The players and coaches deserve our thanks for a wonderful season.
Congratulations! Go Dawgs!
The Opelika High girls basketball team is 4-2 on the young season. OHS Coach Devin Booth has a young but talented group of players.
The OHS boys have not played a game yet. Coach Wadsworth wanted to wait until after the Super 7 championships to schedule a game. A number of football team members also play basketball.
Both teams will start playing twice a week, beginning this week.
The OHS wrestling team traveled to Smiths Station on Dec. 1 to battle the Panthers, Central Red Devils and St James Trojans to begin the ‘16-2017 competition season. The Dawgs started the night off with s 54-18 loss to Central. The young Dawgs bounced back against St James and won 54-18 before falling to an experienced Smiths team.
D.Mark Mitchell is sports director for iHeart Media, Alabama Dixie Boys State director and vice president of the A-O Sports Council.