Montgomery, Ala.—A team that has continued to improve throughout the season and is hitting its stride in the playoffs, Friday night's 35-21 Opelika victory over Carver at Cramton Bowl was the perfect example of what has made this Bulldogs team the first in school history to reach the state title game.
Playing solid defense, running the football, and playing mistake-free, coach Brian Blackmon's team avenged an earlier loss to Carver and Auburn commitment Jeremy Johnson by taking control early on with a 14-0 first half lead and never looking back. Led by senior Calvin Bryant's 124 yards rushing and junior Jakell Mitchell's three rushing touchdowns out of the wildcat formation, Opelika's ground control offense forced Carver's defense to take chances and the results were big plays in the passing game.
Defensively the play of junior cornerback Stephen Roberts was perhaps the biggest reason why Opelika's defense was able to slow down Carver's potent offense. Shutting down his side of the field against a group of talented receivers, Roberts is quickly becoming one of the players to watch for the 2014 class as the Bulldogs roll into the Super Six.
"We're a small town in Alabama that loves this game, loves their kids, and absolutely loves the game of football," Opelika coach Brian Blackmon said. "We're blessed. Our kids are here because they deserved to be here.
"Nothing was different on film about Carver," he added. "They were a great football team when we played them 10 weeks ago and they were a great football team Friday night. We played better. We weren't ready to be good in game four, we just weren't there. Our kids played their tails off. We asked them to give us all they had for 48 minutes and that's what happened.
In his last game for Carver, Johnson had another outstanding night as the completed 23-40 passes for 229 yards and accounted for all three Wolverines' touchdowns. He threw two interceptions, the last a last-gasp effort, to finish the year with just seven picks.
Jeremy Johnson runs against Opelika
Opelika now gets the opportunity to avenge a 30-7 loss in the last game of the regular season against the undefeated Hoover Bucs. Twice already in the playoffs the Bulldogs have beaten a team they lost to in the regular season, beating Auburn two weeks ago and Carver on Friday.
"We've played Hoover already too and we know how good they are. We just keep lining up and fighting. We're thankful to be in this position. We're thankful for all the folks in Opelika that love our kids. They were a big part of the win Friday night."
Full Super Six Schedule:
Madison Academy (12-2) vs. Fayette County (12-2), 11 a.m.
Marion County (13-1) vs. Brantley (14-0), 3 p.m.
Spanish Fort (13-1) vs. McAdory (14-0), 7 p.m.
UMS-Wright (12-2) vs. Oneonta (14-0), 11 a.m.
Tanner (13-0) vs. Washington County (13-1), 3 p.m.
Hoover (14-0) vs. Opelika (10-4), 7 p.m.