The Opelika Bulldogs proved Thursday that there is a way to stop a Tank.
Opelika (1-0) gave up a few solid runs from Callaway’s Tank Bigsby, but the Bulldogs made the Auburn commit pay for the mistakes he made. Bigsby fumbled twice and mishandled a hand-off on another play to help the Bulldogs win the turnover battle and outlast the Cavaliers 10-7.
“It took us playing four quarters of defense all the way through,” said Opelika’s Kory McCoy, who recovered one of Bigsby’s fumbles and also had an interception. “They had a very good running back who tested our skills, and I felt like we came ready to play. This was what we were working on all summer, this game right here.”
PHOTO GALLERY: See photos from Opelika's win over Callaway in a gallery at the end of this story.
Opelika wasted little time in making Bigsby and the Cavaliers pay after a fumble on the Callaway 30-yard line. The Bulldogs put together a quick four-play drive that ended when Nate Evans cut to his right and pushed the pile forward on a 3-yard touchdown run.
Evans’ score put Opelika on top 7-0 with 9:16 to go in the first quarter. Though both teams had their shots at points, the Bulldogs maintained the one-touchdown lead until 6:42 in the fourth, when Marshall Meyers added three points courtesy a 25-yard field goal.
The Bulldogs held Callaway’s offense back deep into the fourth, when McCoy’s interception seemed to seal the deal with about five minutes left in regulation. Opelika ran several precious minutes off the clock but then fumbled the ball on a mishandled snap, which gave Callaway possession down 10 with just under three minutes to play.
With a little bit of life left, the Cavaliers (0-1) charged down the field. Callaway pieced together a nine-play, 81-yard drive complete with a lengthy delay regarding a challenged play. Bigsby ended the drive with a 1-yard rushing touchdown with 53 seconds to go and ended the night with 23 carries for 114 yards and one score.
The Cavaliers’ last chance was the ensuing onside kick, but the Bulldogs were ready to make a play. Malachi Tatum snagged the kick and fell to the ground, allowing quarterback Brody Davis to kneel out the clock.
Last year, the game between Opelika and Callaway swung on three turnovers by the Bulldogs. This time, it was the Cavaliers’ miscues that proved to be their undoing.
“When you don’t give them opportunities to score, that’s worse than punting for them,” Opelika head coach Erik Speakman said. “That was four possessions where they didn’t get a chance to score. As good as they are on offense, we’ll take any help we can get.”
The Bulldogs came out on top, but there were plenty of things to clean up after the first game. Opelika walked away with 13 penalties and several missed opportunities to score, including the drive after McCoy’s interception that would have sealed the victory.
While there was still room for improvement, Speakman was all smiles as the Bulldogs turn their attention to next Friday’s rivalry game against Auburn High.
“Any win is a great win, so we’ll take that,” Speakman said. “We made a lot of pre-snap mistakes, and we can’t have that. Those are things we can fix, so that’s good news. Those are things we’ll focus on this week going into a big game with Auburn.”
Opelika 10, Callaway 7
C — 0 0 0 7 - 7
O — 7 0 0 3 - 10
O - Nate Evans 3-yard run (XP good), 9:16
O - Marshall Meyers 25-yard field goal, 6:42
C - Tank Bigsby 1-yard run (XP good), 0:53