Opelika’s season ended with a 46-27 loss at Saraland on Friday in the Class 6A state quarterfinals.
The Bulldogs finished the year 9-3.
Powerhouse Saraland (11-2) jumped out to a 14-0 lead early and led 26-6 at the half, putting Opelika in a hole too deep to dig out of.
Friday night marked the final game for Opelika’s 31 seniors.
“They’ll be Bulldogs for life,” Opelika head coach Erik Speakman said postgame on the game’s radio broadcast on Kicker 97.7 FM. “They’re going to be some great young men. For you business owners in Opelika, man, you need to hire some of these kids. They’re awesome kids and they do a wonderful job with our leadership program.
“That’s the biggest thing that you miss,” he said. “It’s not the football. It’s just the time that you get to spend with them.”
The Bulldogs won Region 2-6A this season.
Opelika’s other two losses this year came to Class 7A’s Auburn High and Central-Phenix City — meaning Opelika’s only three losses all came to state semifinalists.
Opelika made it back to the state’s elite eight for the sixth year in a row.
“Just the hard work that they have put in, just to get to play the game of football — and it ends this way every year for everybody but one team,” Speakman said. “We were unfortunate tonight that we don’t get to spend another week next week practicing and hanging out with each other.
“But these are memories that these kids will never forget. They’ll be 60 years old talking about all the bus rides and all the stuff that goes on. Really proud of them and proud of every kid on our team. We’ll put this one to bed and, honestly, we’ll start getting ready in two weeks for next year. That’s how quick it turns around.”
After Saraland went up 14-0, Opelika’s Malik Finley fired a 28-yard touchdown pass to Will Beams to get Opelika on the board and cut the lead to 14-6 late in the second quarter, but Saraland punched right back in less than two minutes, extending the lead to 206. Then, as Opelika tried to get some more points on the board before half, Saraland returned a pick-six to make it a 20-point margin at the break.
Saraland advances to face Spanish Fort in the Class 6A state semifinals.
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