Leadership was key
Opp coach Jack Whigham said Tuesday one key to his team’s success this season was team leadership.
The Bobcats finished their season Nov. 13, where they fell to Jackson in the second round of the Class 4A state playoffs, 45-13.
Two weeks prior to falling in the second round, Opp fell to city rival Andalusia. But the next Friday, they won the rematch to end Andalusia’s playoff run in the first round of the playoffs.
Whigham said this year’s success all came down to his seniors making the right decision.
“Midway through the season our seniors decided they were going to do every thing they could to make this year a memorable one,” Whigham said. “I think the fourth or fifth game, they decided they had to play hard every play and that they weren’t guaranteed anything past 10 games.
“If they wanted to make the playoffs, if they wanted to defeat some of their rivals, then they were going to have to put a lot into it,” he said. “I think they did that.”
Week four was especially a memorable one for Opp. That was the week where St. James dealt a bitter region blow, winning by three points. It was also the week when Whigham was taken to the hospital for severe dehydration.
On Sept. 25, Opp defeated Straughn at the midway point of the season, for the first time in school history. The next week, they lost to Ashford in region play.
“Even though we lost in overtime to Ashford, we played pretty well,” Whigham said. “So, we had about a five-game stretch where we played really well and really hard.”
After that, Opp coasted into the playoffs by defeating Bullock County, Elmore County and Montgomery Catholic back-to-back.
What really clinched a playoff berth for the Bobcats this season was a forfeit win to Holtville. Holtville had to forfeit its week two win to Opp because of an ineligible player.
Whigham said, “Nothing was guaranteed” at that point of the season.
“We got in because of the forfeit and that was very fortunate, but we had to win those three region games (Bullock County, Elmore County and Montgomery Catholic) and when we did that, it gave us a lot of hope when we won those three region games like that,” he said.
Opp had an impressive season both on the offensive and defensive side of the ball.
The Bobcats finished the year with a 6-6 record and averaged 18.8 points per game.
Opp rushed for a total of 2,230 yards on 470 carries and 22 touchdowns. Quarterback Gavin Free was 48-of-102 for 735 yards and had eight touchdowns.
Whigham said the main difference between this year’s team and last year’s team was their overall skill.
“Everybody that played on this year’s team made the most of their ability,” Whigham said. “I don’t know if we’ve always done that in the past — and that’s not the fault of the kids, necessarily. This group of seniors probably maximized their ability as much as any I have been around.”