The Opelika Bulldogs will travel to the Cramton Bowl for a Saturday morning kickoff to face the Lee-Montgomery Generals in a big Class 6A, Region 2 contest. The winner will secure their spot in the playoff race while the Bulldogs still have aspirations for the region title. As of know, the Generals have the third spot in the region and would like to improve that with a win over Opelika.
Opelika comes into the game with a big win over Russell County while Lee dropped a close game to city rival Carver-Montgomery last week. That was a big emotion game that got away from the Generals.
Opelika (4-2, 4-0) comes into the game with a perfect 4-0 mark against 6A schools but an 0-2 record against 7A powers Auburn and Central-Phenix City. Opelika has wins over Carver, Eufaula and Russell County in the region and look to get their full roster back due to medical reason this week against Lee.
Quarterback Malik Finley leads the Bulldogs offense. After coming back from injury, Finley has played well. "Malik has gotten better the last two weeks after missing two weeks due to quarantine issues," said Bulldogs Head coach Erik Speakman. "He hit some big plays the last two weeks against Central and Russell County.
At running back you have Eric Watts and JD Tolbert. Both have their unique styles of running the football. "Eric is a taller, long kid with break away speed guy that hits the hole hard and is a strong runner," added Speakman. "JD bounces around and is hard to tackle. He will make some runs that you question, how did he get through that hole. JD is a strong runner while Eric has the break away speed." Watts has an offer from Eastern Kentucky. Jarad Petrina and Tre Roberts are H-backs for the Bulldogs.
The Bulldogs receivers are very good. Will Beans, Zander Grilliot, Sean Jones and Grady Bynum lead the way. Bynum had a 33-yard touchdown reception against Russell County last week. Tight end Jose Fernandez is a solid blocker for the Bulldogs.
The offensive line has seven seniors that rotate during the game. Center Kris Epperson is the leader of the skilled group. "Kris is a two-year starter for us and has done a great job for us," said Speakman. "One guy that has come along for us is Derrick Watts. A kid that if you told me last year that he would be starting, I would have said you are crazy. He has come along this year as a senior. We is a leader by example. He was a scout team guy last year but has worked hard in the off season to become a starter for us." Watts stands at 6-0/305-pounds. Other lineman with playing time are Jalen Heard, Ty Robinson, Garret Fitzwater, Harold Torres, Sean Smith, Grant Morgan and John Trask.
The defense has been solid and will need to tackle well against one of the best backs in Alabama. The guys upfront will play an offensive line with size. Kia Stephens, Tre'von Moore, Jalen Parker, EJ Thomas and Avian Lewis will need to take up blocks for the linebackers to keep them free for tackles. Linebackers Kevin Lilly, Anthony Martin, Dillon Phillips and Taylor Love will need to play well and are having a good season. "We are very excited about our defensive line group," said Speakman. "We have good size up front and they have played together for the last two years. Were able to get into game and make they necessary changes during a game that we haven't seen on film because of their experience. In close games, we have made good adjustments on the sidelines and at halftime that has been more important this season than ever before in my coaching career."
The secondary has a lot of experience with four seniors. Ledamian Rowell, Dalen Torbert, Tori Roberts and Braylon Prince will not see many passes against Lee but they will get tested a few times. "Tori has been our guy that gets us lined up in the right spots," said Speakman. "This was the area of concern when the season started was the back end of our defense. Without these passing camps, it has hurt our secondary on getting those reps we missed out on this summer. We struggled early in the year with DB's that defended a pass since Thanksgiving of last year but we have come along. We played well against some passing teams. Tori is a three-year starter and it very important to our defense. We need our secondary not to miss tackles against their two running backs."
For Lee-Montgomery (4-2, 3-1). the Generals are looking to get back on the winning ways this week but will need to get some more offense going against Opelika. The Generals rely on running backs Reggie Davis and Brian Thomas for most of the offense. Davis has rushed for over 1,200 yards on the season and can break a long run at anytime he touches the ball. Thomas, part of the thunder and lightning duo, is the thunder to the Davis lightning. Thomas gets the tough yardage at times and is a key piece to balance out Davis on the offensive side of the ball. Davis, a Florida Atlantic commit, can catch it or run it out of the backfield and will need another huge game from him and his teammates to get this big region victory. "Reggie is a home run hitter guy," said Generals Head coach Eric Hudson. "Brian runs hard up the middle between the tackles and is hard to bring down." Andre Hall could get a few carries for the Generals.
Quarterback Jakel Williams could play a key role in this game. The Generals will need to get a few completions in the passing game to keep the Bulldogs defense to keep from putting so many defenders in the box. "Jakel has done a good job of controlling the offense," added Hudson. "We have to get better in the passing game, but when we need to throw, he has done a good job of getting the ball to our receivers."
The receiving core is Malcolm Hudson, Chris Dillihay and Dyuri Vandiver.
The offensive line is huge and very good. Anquin Barnes, Jonte Palmer, Jaqueze McLemore, Yvonte Mckitchen and Dimitri Mckee. Barnes, an Alabama commit, plays on offense and defense. "Anquin plays both sides of the ball but we really communicate with him on how he is feeling on series by series," said Hudson. "He is a good leader and really wants to be on the field to help his team."
The defense will need to play well against a more balanced attack on offense from Opelika. Vincent Beckles, Amare Fortson, Trashad Lewis and Barnes will need to have huge games for the Generals. Linebackers Tidera Minefield, Austin Yelder, and Tyler Franklin are very good.
The secondary of Will Middleton, Eric Stewart, Zykal Lewis, Julius Owens and A'darius Horne will handle the back end of the Generals defense. Middleton is a big hitter along along with a big physical player with a good football IQ. Brings a lot of leadership to the Generals defense.
Some of the keys for Lee. "We have to take care of the football," said Hudson. "We have to do what we do best in running the football. We can't get these undiscipline penalties that we had last week. Opelika is a very discipline team and they play very good defense."
"Lee has a big offensive and defensive lines and run the ball very well," said Speakman. "Davis and Thomas are very good running backs. The back end of the secondary has a lot of good speed. They do a good job of defending the pass."