The Opelika Bulldogs passed their final test before the playoffs on Friday with a 44-8 home win over Vigor at Bulldog Stadium. The win also capped senior night for the Opelika players.
“It was a lot of fun for those guys tonight,” Opelika coach Erik Speakman said of his senior class in an interview with 97.7 The Kicker following the game. “We talked to the whole team before the game that these guys when they come back 20 years from now will remember a couple games: the Auburn game, your final home game which is senior night and whatever happens to you in the playoffs. It was a fun night for the seniors and really everybody else.”
The Class 6A, Region 3 champions were paced by a dynamic rushing led by Eric Watts and JD Tolbert.
“It is a good tune-up for where we are going,” Speakman said. “The season really starts over in two weeks because everyone is 0-0.”
After Opelika (8-1, 5-0) forced a punt on the opening possession, the run game took control with a methodical drive capped by a short touchdown run by Watts.
The defense got the ball right back, and Bulldogs quarterback Brody Davis was able to stretch his arm out with a couple first-down passes to junior Will Beams, including a 32-yard completion.
The drive was capped with a four-yard run on a receiver sweep by Omar Holloway. Holloway’s score put the Bulldogs up 14-0 with 3:18 left in the first quarter.
Vigor (4-5, 3-3) struggled to get the offense going and was forced to punt the ball back to the Bulldogs.
The second quarter went much like the first for Opelika. Davis hit quick passes to Marien Warner for 18 yards and Holloway for 26. The senior quarterback finished the drive with his first touchdown pass of the night — a 10-yard toss to Warner.
The Bulldogs capped the first-half scoring with the fourth different player of the evening finding the end zone. Jamius Mitchell scored on a run to extend the lead to 28-0 with 7:15 left in the half.
The defense got into the scoring action early in the third quarter with Miles Magee — who took up residence in the Vigor backfield all evening — pulling down Vigor quarterback Faron Brown for the two points.
“He had a lot of fun tonight,” Speakman said of Magee. “We will lean on him as the season goes along into the postseason.”
The offense made sure that they weren’t out done, and Tolbert had his turn in the end zone with a 27-yard run for six more points.
The sixth different Bulldog found himself in the end zone just a couple minutes later with Kani Kellum finishing a drive with a one-yard touchdown after a big Tolbert run set it up. The score put Opelika up 44-0 with five minutes left in the third quarter.
The youth for Opelika got their chance to play with the starters’ jobs done. Among those younger players was junior defensive back Dalen Torbert, who came up with a fourth-quarter interception.
Vigor got on the board late with a 34-yard touchdown run by freshman running back Mehki Brooks with 4:58 to play. The Wolves missed the extra point and the score remained 44-6. That is where the score remained through the final whistle.
“It was a great regular season by these kids,” Speakman said. “Our team has really made great strides these last couple weeks.”
Opelika will enjoy a bye week next Friday before opening the playoffs in two weeks at Bulldog Stadium against fourth-seeded McAdory from Region 4-6A.
“Next week, we will work on ourselves,” Speakman said. “It won’t be any McAdory preparation; we don’t want to work too far ahead.”
Opelika 44, Vigor 6
V — 0 0 0 6 — 6
O — 14 14 16 0 — 44
O — Eric Watts 1-yd run (XP good); 7:39
O — Omar Holloway 4-yd run (XP good); 3:18
O — Marien Warner 10-yd reception from Brody Davis (XP good); 11:01
O — Jamius Mitchell run (XP good); 7:15
O — Safety (Miles Magee sack); 9:44
O — JD Tolbert 27-yd run (XP good); 8:33
O — Kani Kellum 1-yd run (XP good); 5:00
V — Mehki Brooks 36-yd run (XP missed); 4:58