Opelika vs. St. Paul’s Episcopal School high school football

Opelika running back Eric Watts (37) celebrates his touchdown with his teammates during the Opelika vs. St. Paul’s Episcopal School football game at Bulldog Stadium in Opelika on Nov. 15.

The Opelika Bulldogs faced a tough challenge on Friday night with a road trip to Hueytown to face the Golden Gophers and their two Division-I running backs.

The Bulldogs and junior running back Eric Watts proved up to the challenge though and picked up a 45-24 win to advance to the 6A state semifinals.

“We’ve always said all year that at certain points, the defense is going to rise, then the offense will rise in some game,” Opelika coach Erik Speakman told 97.7 The Kicker after the game. “The offense did it tonight and kept us in the game until we could settle in. What a fabulous job by our coaches, our kids, the band and everyone.”

Hueytown and Alabama commit Roydell Williams punched the Bulldogs in the mouth first with a one-yard touchdown run to put Hueytown up 14-3 with 4:55 left in the first quarter.

Watts and the Bulldogs had a counterpunch though, and it was a haymaker. On the first play of the ensuing Opelika drive, the junior went 61 yards for a touchdown.

After a botched field goal that cost the Bulldogs points on the next drive, Opelika quarterback Brody Davis got the passing game going and found Omar Holloway for two long passes — the second being a 31 yard touchdown to put the Bulldogs up 17-14 with just under 10 minutes left before half.

Williams came back with another one-yard score, but Watts had the answer on the next possession’s first snap again. His 68-yard touchdown run put the Bulldogs up 24-21 with 6:54 left in the second quarter.

The Opelika defense settled in from there and after allowing 21 points through the first quarter and a half, they allowed just three for the remainder of the game.

“You look at that second half and we gave up three points to a really good offense, and then our offense just moved the ball up and down the field,” Speakman said.

Davis and Holloway made their second touchdown connection of the evening in the final minute of the half to put the Bulldogs up 31-21 at intermission.

The two defenses battled through much of the third quarter before Hueytown was able to pull within one score on a field goal with 2:06 left in the third.

The fourth quarter was all Opelika though. Watts scored his third touchdown of the night on a seven-yard run with just under 10 minutes to play and put the Bulldogs up 14.

Tori Roberts had a pair of fourth-quarter interceptions and junior JD Tolbert put the game away with a 35-yard touchdown as the Bulldogs began to make plans for a semifinal trip next Friday.

The Bulldogs will have a long bus ride to play Spanish Fort, who knocked off Park Crossing 28-21 to earn its place in the semifinals. The game will kick off next Friday at 7 p.m.

“Thanksgiving week trip to Spanish Fort,” Speakman said. “Beautiful coastal Alabama.”

Opelika 45, Hueytown 24

O — 10 21 0 14 - 45

H — 14 7 3 0 - 24

First Quarter

H — Alex Young 10-yd run (XP good), 8:22

O — Mitchell Meyers 28-yd FG, 6:08

H — Roydell Williams 6-yd run (XP good), 4:55

O — Eric Watts 61-yd run (XP good), 4:36

Second Quarter

O — Omar Holloway 31-yd pass from Brody Davis (XP good) 9:57

H — Williams 1-yd run (XP good), 7:28

O — Watts 68-yd run (XP good), 6:54

O — Holloway 32-yd pass from Davis (XP good), 0:59

Third Quarter

H — Juan Juarez 35-yd FG, 2:06

Fourth Quarter

O — Watts 7-yd run (XP good), 9:59

O — JD Tolbert 35-yd run (XP good), 2:35

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