MONTGOMERY — Opelika’s defense led the way on a sloppy, soaked night in Montgomery, and the Bulldogs defeated Carver-Montgomery 28-6 on Thursday in Cramton Bowl.
Opelika improved to 3-2 on the season and 3-0 in Region 2-6A.
“I thought our defense played really well tonight and stepped up, minus two big plays where our eyes were looking in the backfield and (Carver) got behind us. But that was something we got corrected at halftime,” said Eric Speakman, coach of the Bulldogs, after the game. “We played really good in the second half; defense and special teams was where we had the advantage. Offensively we struggled to run the ball. But these guys are running the eight-and nine-man fronts so we’ve got to figure out some way to run the ball. But (tonight) it was raining so much that it wasn’t really conducive to throwing the ball. But we’ll play the field position game on a rainy night like this was in Montgomery.”
Opelika took the field Thursday night — already having one short week experience under their belts — and immediately went to work, stymying any semblance of offensive effort by the Wolverines. Opelika’s defense — which shut down the Carver offense — forced and recovered a fumble on the first possession.
That change in possession led to the first of two Cooper touchdown runs. Cooper finished the night with 124 yards rushing on 37 carries, scored on runs of 3 and 2 yards. The 3-yard run put Opelika up 7-0 midway through a first-quarter monsoon.
Lightning flashes across the Montgomery sky stopped play and sent both teams into their respective locker rooms for 35 minutes and the first quarter resumed around 8:10 p.m.
The Bulldogs drove down to inside the Wolverine 3-yard line late in the first period but were turned away twice at the 1.
Carver — unable to do anything after such a stout stand by their defense — was forced to punt.
Opelika with just under 7:00 left before intermission dialed up their longest pass play of the night and it was a house call.
Quarterback Roman Gagliano faked the handoff to Cooper, stepped back and tossed a long pass to an uncovered Shawn Jones who fielded it and ran it in for the score. The toss and run covered 54 yards and put the Bulldogs up 14-0, following the point after conversion.
Jones — despite playing in a monsoon in the odd quarters — finished the night with five catches for 124 yards.
The Bulldogs in the third drove down the field again. However, an errant pass into the end zone was intercepted by Carver’s Jaqurais Thomas who brought it out and didn’t stop running until he crossed the goal line on the other end of the field. Thomas’s run — which covered around 105 yards — goes down in the books as a 100-yard pick-six and was probably the highlight of the Carver season to date.
That was also the Wolverines’ only bit of scoring as the point after kick flew straight into the facemask of an encroaching Bulldogs defender.
Opelika — in the final frame — scored twice to put the game away.
Cooper capped a drive with a 2-yard plunge, improving the tally to 21-6 and then Calvin Hughley closed out the game with a 17-yard run.
The Bulldogs travel to Central-Phenix City next week while Carver stays in the Capital City to tangle with Jeff Davis.