LADY LIONS SOFTBALL
LIONS BOYS' GOLF
LIONS GIRLS' GOLF
OPELIKA DEFEATS PRATVILLE 16-14
September 25, 2011By Jimmy White of Prattville High School
BULLDOGS BITE LIONS AT STANLEY-JENSEN STADIUM
Opelika’s head football coach Brain Blackman brought an old fashion game plan to Stanley-Jensen Stadium Friday night. It was something out of old school football. “We will win the game by running the football, controlling the clock, and stopping the run.”
Former Prattville coach Tommy Lucas would have been proud of the Bulldogs’ game plan.
The Bulldogs did just that. They ran the football, and ran the football. Prattville couldn’t stop the run. Opelika stacked the line and Prattville couldn’t run the football.
The results was a stunning upset of the Lions on their home court before over 7,500 fans; 6,000 of those fans were Prattville faithful who were stunned at Prattville’s performance.
While the defeat hurt badly especially for the talented 43 seniors the group can take consolations that it did not damage their opportunity to achieve two of their goals. The goal for high national rankings is gone, but after all, that goal was mythical at best. The Lions can still win the Region Four championship and earn a home date in the first round of the state playoffs.
They also can still win the state class 6A championship. That road, of course, got a lot tougher with the defeat. Prattville has four region games left on the 2011 schedule, and all four teams are now looking at Prattville in a different light. They are not invincible. All four feel the Lions can be beaten.
Without a doubt Opelika High will have quite a few requests for a copy of the game film.
In the wake of the defeat at the hands of the Bulldogs, Prattville did not play a bad first half, and actually led at halftime, 7-0, thanks to a shanked punt by Opelika kicker, Will Black, that traveled only four yards with Prattville taking over at the Bulldogs’ 20.
It took the Lions two plays to go the 20 yards with Jalen Whitlow at quarterback. Whitlow hit Nick Shanks with a 6-yard pass, and then kept on the next down zipping down the right sidelines 14 yards for the six- pointer. Kegan Gaither kicked the first of his two extra points with 7:51 left in the half.
Prattville then withstood a ferocious charge from the Bulldogs. Opelika marched steadily down field to a first down at the Lions 23. There the drive fizzled with two running plays, and a pass play from Calvin Bryant intended to a wide open Tony Philpot in the end zone. It was baldy overthrown.
Will Black attempted a 39-yard field goal, but it was blocked by Laronji Vason.
The second half was Prattville’s Waterloo. The third quarter proved to be the fatal blow. Opelika took the second half kickoff at its 35 when Gaither’s kick went out of bounds at the Lions 2-yard line. The Bulldogs marched steadily downfield, all on the ground. In six plays and taking only two minutes and 21 seconds the game was knotted.
The Bulldogs began to flex their defensive muscles. Their confidence was at its peak. They sensed Prattville was back on their heels.
Opelika was correct; Prattville had the ball three possessions during the third quarter. All three possessions went three and out and gained a total of 9 yards on nine plays. Prattville held the ball for three minutes and four seconds.
When the quarter ended the Lions trailed, 10-7. It did not get much better for Prattville, as the fourth quarter began. Opelika took over at its 46 after Brian Curry’s 36 yard punt. Milking the clock for every second Opelika ran off almost four minutes of clock, and settled for a 28-yard field goal from Black for a 13-7 lead.
Prattville then showed some life. For the first time in the game Black’s kickoff did not go into the end zone, reaching the one yard line. Jeremiah Gardner returned it to the 21.
Mike Smith got 8-yards on first down around right end. Jeremiah Gardner added eight yards on second down for a first down. It was the first one for Prattville in the second half.
With Justin Thomas under center Prattville picked up two more first downs to the Opelika 14. Stanley Mays got six yards on first down Thomas picked up a yard on second down. On third down Thomas hit Justin Shanks who had lined up as an eligible receiver on the left side of the line for a touchdown. Gaither’s extra point gave the Lions the lead with 3:48 remaining in the game, 14-13.
That was just the exact time the Bulldogs needed to win the game.
Gaither’s kick was fair caught at the Bulldog 22-yard line. With the precision of a NFL quarterback junior Calvin Bryant marched the Bulldogs steadily downfield.
Prattville aided the Bulldogs with one 5-yard penalty, but it really would not matter, Opelika was sky high and had old man Mo on their side. Bryant threw two passes in the 68-yard 12-play drive.
The biggest play of the drive came with 36.3 seconds left and the ‘Dawgs facing a third down and three at the Prattville 23. Senior D’Marius Howard scrambled out of the grasp of several Lion tacklers and broke free to the 11 yard line and a first down with 26.9 seconds left.
Howard added three yards as the clock wound down to 12.2. Will Black put the dagger in the heart of the hometown fans with a perfect 25 yard field goal as the clock ticked to 1.5 seconds.
The team with all the division one commitments, and all the lofty preseason hype watched as the Bulldogs celebrated on the artificial turf of Stanley-Jensen Stadium. It was a tough sight to behold, but it was no fluke. On this night the best team won.