Among the fiercest high school rivalries in the state, Auburn and Opelika have already played once this season with Coach Tim Carter's AHS Tigers taking a tough 32-23 victory.
The rematch takes place on Friday night at Duck Samford Stadium in Auburn in round three of the Class 6A playoffs after Auburn won on the road last week against previously unbeaten McGill-Toolen while Opelika took down Daphne at home.
Entering the game 8-4 on the season, but with the four losses all coming to teams still playing in the playoffs (Benjamin Russell, Carver-Montgomery, Auburn, Hoover), the Bulldogs are a seasoned team that Carter said will be a tough out for his team. With the emergence of the now healthy Calvin Bryant at running back, Opelika has come on strong in the playoffs.
"It adds that element," Carter said of the familiarity. "It's kind of like if Auburn and Alabama met in the playoff system. You can't take away the emotion of the rivalry, but you also have to look at the accomplishment and keep a level head. Both teams that are here are very capable of winning because in the third round there are no slouches.
"I think they are playing with a lot more confidence," he added of Opelika. "I think it's a team that is even going to be better next year. If you look at them the Division I talent is more in the junior and sophomore classes. They had to mature. They played a pretty tough schedule like we did. They came up short in a few of those games so their record probably doesn't indicate how well they are playing right now. "
Led by Auburn commitment Reuben Foster on offense and defense along with Texas A&M commitment Cameron Echols-Luper at quarterback and junior standout Rashaan Evans a force at defensive end, Auburn is a team that has talent on both sides of the football. Opelika coach Brian Blackmon said his team is looking forward to facing the Tigers once again this week.
"Obviously they've got some great players on the field," Blackmon said. "I think Reuben has emerged as a guy, not only a defensive player but also an offensive player, that really stands out for them," Blackmon said. "They are starting to use him more on the offensive side of the ball and he's really productive over there for them.
"Defensively, he's kind of that guy in the middle that tries to take away that inside run game. The Evans kid is such a superior pass rusher. Our tackles had a real hard time with him the last time we played them. They just do a good job. They are lining up and doing the things they do well."
"I think it's really special for both communities," Blackmon added. "It's always such a big game and the communities both rally behind this game and get involved with the hype and hoopla. When you put the extra on it of being a playoff game then I guess it makes it even more special.
"We're trying to take the edge of that and really make this about just being the playoff game that it is where the winner moves on and the loser is out and try to take a little of the rivalry edge off that. But, that's a hard thing to do."
Opelika leads the all-time series against Auburn 42-41-3, but the Tigers have won the last five meetings. This is the first-ever playoff meeting for the long-time rivals.
Click here for highlights of junior defensive end Rashaan Evans of Auburn High versus Opelika earlier this year.
Here are this week's playoff games:
Brantley (12-0) at Linden (11-1)
Maplesville (11-1) at McIntosh (7-5)
Hubbertville (9-3) at Marion County (12-1), Guin
Berry (8-4) at Pickens County (10-2), Reform
Lamar County (10-2) at Sweet Water (10-2)
Mobile Christian (9-3) at Washington County (11-1), Chatom
Woodland (10-2) at Reeltown (11-1)
Tanner (11-0) at Fultondale (10-2)
Straughn (8-3) at Midfield (8-4)
Fayette County (9-2) at Leeds (11-1)
Deshler (9-3) at Lauderdale County (11-1), Rogersville
Colbert County (8-4) at Madison Academy (9-2), Madison
UMS-Wright (10-2) at Beauregard (11-1)
Dora (11-1) at Charles Henderson (9-3), Troy U. Veterans Memorial Stadium
Oneonta (12-0) at J.O. Johnson (11-1), Huntsville, Milton Frank Stadium
Madison County (11-1) at Brooks (11-1), Killen
Benjamin Russell (11-1) at Spanish Fort (11-1)
Briarwood Christian (6-6) at St. Paul's (10-2), Mobile, E.E. Delaney Stadium
Cullman (10-2) at McAdory (12-0), McCalla
Hartselle (8-4) at Muscle Shoals (12-0)
Opelika (8-4) at Auburn (11-1)
Spain Park (10-2) at Carver-Montgomery (11-1), Cramton Bowl
Hoover (12-0) at Vestavia Hills (10-2)
Clay-Chalkville (11-1) at Mountain Brook (11-1)