By Scott Nickerson, Sports Writer/Photos by Jackie Nix/Tannehill Photography
For the second year in a row, Stanhope Elmore High School’s football team faced off against Opelika late in the regular season with a chance to claim the school’s first region title since 2004 with a victory. Both contests resulted in Opelika soundly defeating the Mustangs, a 38-point victory last season, and a 24-point win this season. With the 38-14 victory, Opelika clinched the Class 6A Region 3 Championship. Stanhope Elmore finished as the #2 seed.
The Mustangs scored the first points of the game four minutes into the contest with an interception returned for a touchdown. They also scored the last points of the game when quarterback Andrew Rines scored a touchdown from 11 yards out at the start of the 4th quarter. In between those scores, the games was thoroughly controlled by the visiting Bulldogs.
Trailing 7-0 in the 1st quarter and facing a 4th and 6 from the Mustangs’ 28-yard line, Opelika quarterback Brody Davis rolled to his left and then turned and threw back down the right side line to an Opelika receiver that was all alone in the end zone. The ensuing extra point tied the game at 7.
After several defensive stops by both teams, the Opelika quarterback then busted out for a 52-yard rush to get the ball inside the Mustangs’ five-yard line. The Bulldogs scored two plays later to go up 14-7, and never relinquished the lead.
The Bulldogs added a 41-yard field goal later in the 2nd quarter to go into the break up by 10 points, 17-7.Trailing by 10 early in the 3rd quarter, the Mustangs defense forced Opelika into a 3rd down and long, but the Bulldogs quarterback converted his second touchdown pass of the night, this time a 58-yard score to put Opelika up 24-7.
The Mustangs’ next offensive possession resulted in them facing a 4th and short from their own 31-yard line. Deep in their own territory, but needing an offensive spark, Mustangs’ Coach Brian Bradford decided to go for the first down. The conversion attempt failed, giving Opelika great field possession, which they quickly converted into another score, going up 31-7.
The Bulldogs scored their last points of the night moments later on an interception returned for a touchdown and moved ahead 38-7 with just under seven minutes to play in the 3rd quarter. Although Opelika didn’t score in the last quarter and a half of the game, they still cruised to the 38-14 victory to clinch the Region 3 title.
In the loss, Mustangs’ running back Tre Duncan had 24 rushes for 80 yards. Quarterback Andrew Rines had 16 rushes, 66 yards and one touchdown, his 7th rushing touchdown on the season and his 13th overall. The Stanhope Elmore High passing game struggled, with leading receiver Conner Bradford held without a reception, and Rines going just 1 for 7 for three yards and an interception that was returned for a touchdown.
Stanhope Elmore High falls to 7-2 with the defeat and will have next week off before they host the Greenville Tigers for Senior Day on November 1 in a non-region contest. Greenville is currently 5-3 on the season with a game against Carroll prior to the matchup with the Mustangs. Despite the loss to Opelika, the Mustangs will host the school’s first Class 6A home playoff game in nine seasons on November 8 against an opponent yet to be determined.