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Opp hopes for playoff victory over Jackson

The Opp Bobcats will host Class 4A powerhouse Jackson tonight in the second round of the state playoffs.

The Bobcats are coming off a first-round victory over Andalusia last week, where they took advantage of their passing game to knock off the Bulldogs.

Opp (7-4) is facing Jackson (10-2), who knocked Ashford out of the playoff race last week, winning 42-14.

In a game of this magnitude, turnovers can cost a team.

“Jackson is a very good football team,” Opp coach Jack Whigham said. “They are big and athletic. We’re going to have to take care of the football (tonight).”

This is the first time Whigham has taken his Bobcats to the second round of the playoffs while at Opp.

In order to be successful tonight, Whigham said his team’s running game would have to get in gear against a quick Jackson defense.

“Jackson is very fast on defense and we are going to have to be really good on offense,” Whigham said. “ I thought that (Opp quarterback) Gavin (Free) did a good job last week. First and foremost, we’ve got to try and run the ball effectively.”

Jackson coach Jeff Kelly said it would be a “challenge” tonight in Opp.

“It’s going to be a tough task coming over to Opp,” Kelly said. “They are a team that is playing the best they have all year long. They are well-coached and do a good job on both sides of the ball. It’s going to be a big challenge for our kids to get lined up to play.”

Kelly said the keys to success for his team are similar to Whigham’s.

“I think, as always with every game, you have to minimize mistakes and not have turnovers and play defense,” he said. “It will come to who plays the best defense and doesn’t make that key turnover.”

Both teams having run-based offenses, with Opp’s Josh Scarbrough, Richard Davis and Quadir Kincaid providing support in the backfield.

Jackson has a one-two combination in running back Jessie Beck and quarterback Ransome Hare.

Against Andalusia, Beck rushed for 102 yards on 12 carries and scored four touchdowns to help lead his team to a 33-6 victory, while Hare was 5-of-6 for 102 yards and had two touchdowns.

“You’ve got both teams that like to run the football and to be very physical,” Kelly said. “I expect the game to be very physical. Our kids pride themselves in being a physical football team. With Opp, it ought to be a good football game.”

Since Tropical Storm Ida made its presence known earlier this week, Whigham said the team struggled at practice Monday, but made up for it Tuesday and Wednesday.

“Monday, we did not practice very well, but on Tuesday and Wednesday; the players did really well and they were practicing as a team,” Whigham said.

The weather tonight calls for partly cloudy skies with the temperature dropping to 41 degrees by kickoff.

“We’re excited to come over there and play,” Kelly said. “Coach Whigham and his team have a fine program and we expect a good game.”

Kickoff in Opp is at 7 p.m.

The winner of tonight’s game will face the winner of the Thomasville-UMS-Wright game in the quarterfinals next Friday night.