Bobcats upset previously unbeaten Elba

Published 12:04 am Saturday, October 31, 2015

The Opp Bobcats (7-3) defeated the Elba Tigers (9-1) Friday night 20-14 in an old-fashioned slugfest in front of a rowdy Elba crowd. The Bobcats broke Elba’s 22-game regular season winning streak, dating back to 2013. They also avenged last year’s 48-19 thumping by Elba and, in fact, Friday night’s 20-14 Opp win was the closest game between the two rivals since 2012. The Bobcats relied on a punishing running game and a tough nosed, opportunistic defense to get the job done against the Tigers.

Elba got things started early driving all the way down to the Opp 3-yard line on the Tigers’ first possession but fumbled the snap, which was recovered by the Bobcats. After Opp was forced to punt, Elba quarterback Ramsey Rigby slid through the Opp defense for an exciting 60-yard touchdown run. The two-point conversion gave Elba the 8-0 lead early.

The two teams exchanged punts as the first quarter came to an end and then the Bobcat offense got a spark from quarterback Orlando Lacey as he scampered to midfield on a 40-yard run. The Bobcats then converted a fourth down inside the Elba 20-yard line and Lacey capped off the drive with a 7-yard touchdown plunge. A failed two-point conversion meant the Tigers still led 8-6, however.

A couple of drives later Elba defensive back Cavosea Stinson snuffed out a Bobcat drive by intercepting a Lacey pass, and then tailback Dontavious Williams threw a long pass to receiver Blake Edwards inside the 20-yard line on a HB Pass that completely fooled the Opp defense. The Tigers marched inside the Opp 10-yard line and on a third down run Rigby, who has committed to play for Auburn next fall as a preferred walk-on, injured his knee and was forced to leave the game. Running back Stefan Caldwell was stuffed on fourth down with just 29 seconds left in the half ending the drive and the Tigers hope to extend their lead. Rigby would return in the second half.

The second half started with fireworks from both school as they exchanged touchdowns to begin the third quarter. Opp’s Lacey broke off a 35-yard run on the Bobcats first drive of the third quarter and then threw a touchdown pass to receiver Reggie Thompson. Another failed two-point conversion meant the Bobcats lead for the first time 12-8. Lacey finished the game with 143 yards on 20 carries and two touchdowns (one passing, one rushing).

Elba responded on the ensuing drive with a 60-yard scoring drive, and capped off by a 3-yard touchdown run from Stinson. Elba’s two-point conversion was also unsuccessful and the Tigers led 14-12.

Both defenses settled down from there, and both offenses were forced to exchange punts for the majority of the second half. Then, on fourth down with under five minutes remaining Elba receiver/punter Grant Akridge bobbled a low snap on a punt attempt, and proceeded to break a tackle and raced for a first down which caused the Elba crowd to explode. Unfortunately for the Tigers the drive stalled again and Akridge was forced to punt.

Opp running back Ethan Hill made the Tigers pay on the next drive, racing through the Elba defense for an electric 43-yard touchdown run. The Bobcats converted the two-point attempt and took the lead 20-14 with just over two minutes remaining in the game.

Elba took over at their own 30-yard line and on a third down made things interesting with a wild hook and lateral play that gave the Tigers a first down and hope, but on the very next play the Tigers fumbled on a simple screen play and the Bobcats recovered snuffed out a second potential scoring drive on the night with under a minute remaining in the game. The Bobcats ran the clock out and held out to the narrow victory over their bitter rivals.

After the game, an emotional Opp head coach Brent Hill spoke of his teams fight and refusal to quit.

“We played four quarters and we have, and we have had some games like this where we started slow and had to fight back, but tonight we played four quarters. Our kids never quit and they’re fighters,” Hill said of his team.

The Bobcats season is not over as Opp travels up north next week to face the Midfield Patriots in the first round of the Class 3A state playoffs.