Opp continues to see success

Published 11:17 pm Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Last week marked the second time the Opp Bobcats (4-2, 4-0 in Class 4A, Region 2) have clinched a playoff berth under the helm of head coach Jack Whigham.

According to Whigham, much of the team’s success this season, in particular, is due to experience and hard work.

“I just think that we have kids that work hard and have been a part of the program for three years,” Whigham said. “We’ve built up our work ethic a little bit and have had a chance to get ourselves in a little bit better physical shape through the off season weight program.

“We have a bunch of kids that are playing hard and one of the No. 1 goals we’ve had this year is to try and become a team,” he said. “Meaning, to be better teammates to the other players on the team and to be accountable to our selves, to the coaches for our actions and realizing that being a successful team is about having a group effort.”

Whigham said the team has not “achieved” their goal quite yet.

“I don’t think we’ve completely achieved it yet because we are in the middle of the season,” he said. “I think we’ve made a lot of strides toward a team where we’re concerned about other people more so than about ourselves.”

The Bobcats’ two losses came in non-region games against Elba, 43-28, and to Straughn, 35-20.

Since Whigham has been with Opp for three years, he said the team has changed because the players know what is expected of them. In Whigham’s first season, the Bobcats were 1-9. Last year, Whigham’s second season, the team finished 6-5.

“I think expectations are a little higher than they were,” he said. “This will be the second year in a row that we’ve made the playoffs and I would hope then from now on that we would expect to make the playoffs every year. Not ‘maybe can we make the playoffs’ or ‘we hope we make the playoffs.’ I would think our expectations would be how far we could go in the playoffs from now on.”

Now that the Bobcats have secured a spot in the playoffs, Whigham said the focus right now is to finish the season.

“Well, the focus now is to try to improve our standing in the playoffs,” Whigham said. “In other words, our focus now is to win the rest of our region games, become region champion and secure a 1 or 2 seed so we can play a home playoff game.”

Junior quarterback Gavin Free was hurt in an earlier game this season and Whigham has had to use Daniel Langford and Adrian Austin to fill for Free.

“Daniel Langford and Adrian Austin have both done a good job at what we’ve asked them to do,” he said. “Daniel has some strengths that Adrian doesn’t have and Adrian has some strengths that Daniel doesn’t have. So, the challenge to us as a coaching staff is to put them in a situation where they can both be successful.

“The players have confidence in both of them,” he said. “Until Gavin comes back — and there is no guarantee he’ll come back full strength this year — we can’t cancel the season out, we’ve got to go on and give our team the best chance to win, and right now, we as a staff believe the best chance our team has is for both of those guys to do their part and to do it well.”

Right now, the Bobcats employ 15 players who play on both offense and defense. Whigham said he is fortunate to have a staff that puts players where they can play the best.

“I think our staff has done a good job of finding something that a kid can contribute to the team,” he said. “It might just be a special teams situation, but we’re finding places these kids can contribute and that’s important. It’s important that some of these kids give a chance for the starters to catch a break on the kicking or punting team.”

During the game last week against Ashford, Opp wide receiver Josh Dunn ran the ball 55 yards down the field for a touchdown and turned the game into the Bobcats’ favor.

“It was a big play in the game because we had just intercepted the ball and got the ball at the 45-yard line,” Whigham said. “In one play, we went from one point to eight points up. That was a big lift for us emotionally to have a big play like that. We’ve had several long drives this year where we’ve had the ball 12 to 16 plays, but every once in a while it’s good for the morale of the team to have a quick strike like that.”

Taking the lead on the running game are backs Josh Scarbrough, Quadir Kincaid and Richard Davis.

The three have a combined 1,346 total yards between them. Scarbrough has 409 yards, Kincaid has 330 yards and Davis has 607 yards.

“We’re sharing the carries amongst them and they’re all getting yards and getting the chance to score touchdowns,” Whigham said. “I think again that’s good for the team concept that we don’t have one guy that everybody depends on. We’ve got three guys that are sharing the load there and I think it’s making us a better football team.”

On the defensive side of the ball, Opp has senior linebackers Chris Carlton and Jevaunn Reed as well as senior defensive back Erwin Spears that have helped stop other teams’ running games.

“Chris is a great kid, he’s always a good leader for us,” Whigham said. “He’s at every practice, he does everything we’ve asked him to do and he’s all over the field Friday nights. Nobody we’ve got plays as hard as he does. He’s leading the team in tackles again this year. He’s got 75 tackles right now, so he’s averaging 12.5 tackles per game.

“He along with Jevaunn Reed are our two cornerstones on defense as far as stopping the run,” he said. “Then, Erwin Spears, he’s done a great job in the secondary tackling for us. So, those three guys have really stood out for us on defense.”

This week, the Bobcats will travel to face Bullock County and Whigham says they are a team not to be taken lightly.

“Bullock County has a really good team,” he said. “Regardless of what people think about them, they’re not the same Bullock County team from the past. Coach Leon Day has done a great job coaching them in the last two years and they’ve always had a few good athletes. They’ve lost three games to three very good football teams, Elmore County, Montgomery Catholic and Ashford. We’re going to have to play very, very well and mistake-free to have a chance to win the game.”