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Opelika uses big play after big play to down Northridge

Opelika uses big play after big play to down Northridge

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Opelika’s Jamori Thomas (6) runs with the ball against Northridge on Friday night in Bulldog Stadium.

Just call Opelika the Big Play Bulldogs.

After a few minutes of settling into the game, Opelika’s offense looked unstoppable on Friday night in a Class 6A first-round victory over Northridge. The Bulldogs racked up seven touchdowns in the 45-20 victory and all but one of them were 40 yards or more.

“That’s our MO — run the football and try to hit some big plays with these skill guys,” Opelika coach Erik Speakman said. “That’s been our thing this year and it’s really worked the last couple of weeks.”

It was certainly a recipe to success on Friday night as the Bulldogs racked up touchdown after touchdown to take a commanding 35-6 lead into halftime.

Roman Gagliano opened the scoring midway through the first quarter, connecting with Shawn Jones perfectly in stride. Jones then took it to the house for a 55-yard score, and from there, it was like the floodgates open.

Within the final two minutes of the first quarter, Opelika tacked on two more scores. Jarell Stinson and Kaden Cooper both scored rushing touchdowns by 59 and 54 yards out, respectively.

Cooper followed his score up with a second-quarter touchdown of 43 yards, and Gagliano added another passing TD when he found a wide-open Jayvontay Conner for a 41-yard touchdown.

What was most impressive about Opelika’s offense though wasn’t the sheer number of points it scored, but the way the skill players seemed to battle to the end of the play each and every time. Breaking tackles seemed like something easy for the Bulldogs on Friday night.

“That’s huge in the playoffs; you gotta have guys that can make plays,” Speakman said. “We talked all summer about our skill guys and they’re finally really coming along. It took us a little while to figure out some puzzle pieces, but I thought about midway through the season, we really started figuring some things out on offense.”

Even the freshmen got in on the offensive fun as Calvin Hughley, who was the go-to running back in the final frame, scored from 4 yards out to finish out the scoring.

“A lot of times they don’t get to play and the further you go in the playoffs, the tighter the games get,” Speakman said. “So that playing time is really valuable when you can get them in a first-round game like this and let them get to play. They work just as hard as everybody else on the team; they just don’t get the accolades that the starters do, so it was fun to watch them get in and play.”

Opelika will host Spanish Fort in the second round next week.


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