WETUMPKA, Alabama -- Zach Grindle kicked a 28-yard field goal with 2:28 left in the game and #1 Wetumpka defeated #8 Opelika 30-28 in a thriller Friday night on Hohenberg Field at the Wetumpka Football Stadium. The Indians trailed for much of the game but turned it around with the interceptions in the third quarter to change the momentum and get the big region win.
Opelika had a chance to with the game on a 38-yard field goal with only :01 left in the game, but it the kicked was blocked and the Indians get their first ever win against the Bulldogs. For the third straight season, Opelika had a chance to snatch a one-point victory away from Wetumpka but this had a different ending for the Indians. "I was thinking, this is just like last year," said Indians head coach Tim Perry. I just thought not again. We can't lose a 1-point game for three years in a row."
Down 28-27 with 7:00 minutes left to go in the game, Wetumpka had the drive of their season. The Indians drove 71-yards on big play after big play. A huge third down play from Tyquan Rawls to Malik Davis and a 19-yard run by Terrance Thomas setup the Indians at the Opelika 1-yard line.
Again a false start penalty moved the ball back from the one-yard line to the six-yard line. "We were going to go for the touchdown," added Perry. "We wanted to punch it in on fourth down. We had so many false start penalties tonight, we need to do a better job and get that corrected."
Opelika (1-3, 1-1) has played a brutal schedule to start the season and it doesn't get any easier next week playing Class 7A #2 Central-Phenix City. "Wetumpka made a lot of big plays and that has been our achilles heal all year," said Bulldogs head coach Eric Spearkman. "We had them in third down and long but that has a lot to do with who we are playing. Our kids fought all game long and you saw that again tonight. We are running threw this gauntlet of our schedule and we are fighting. It is come down to the last possession every week and everyone in Opelika should be proud of the effort we gave tonight."
Opelika scored first in the game with Matthew Blackmon threw to Marien Warner on a short pass but Warner turned it into a 74-yard touchdown. Opelika decided to go for two-points early and Blackmon scored on the conversion and with 9:28 left in the first quarter, the Bulldogs led 8-0. With 7:33 left in the second quarter, Wetumpka (4-0, 2-0) scored on a Deangelo Jones 6-yard touchdown run and the Indians trailed 8-7.
With 3:53 left in the half, Brantan Barnett scored on a 36-yard touchdown run around left end and then cut it up the middle of the Indians defense for a score and the Bulldogs took a 15-7 lead. On the ensuing kickoff, the Indians quickly moved down the field on the arm and legs of Rawls. With 2:33 left in the half, Rawls hit EJ Rogers in the end zone and for an Indians touchdown. The two point conversion failed and Opelika still led 15-13.
Opelika was not finished before halftime as they raced down the field after a few plays. With :22 seconds left in the half, Blackmon found tight end Jamius Mitchell on a 13-yard touchdown play for the Bulldogs and Opelika took a 22-13 halftime lead. In the first half, Blackmon was rolling completing 7-of-11 passing for 106 yards and two touchdowns and Barnett with 88 yards on 7 carries and a touchdown.
The third quarter though it was all Wetumpka. The Indians created two turnovers, a stop on fourth down and forced a Bulldogs punt in the quarter to turn the game around and gave the Indians offense good chances to score in the quarter. Kamarre Murphy came away with an interception on an Opelika face punt and Sam Jones picked off a Bulldogs pass in the third quarter to turn the game around for the Indians.
With 4:02 in the third quarter, Rawls hit Rogers for a 9-yard touchdown play in the back of the end zone and it was a close call on Rogers getting possession and is feet down, but it was called a touchdown and Wetumpka cut the lead to 22-20. With 2:48 left in the third quarter, Wetumpka took the lead back on a Rawls on an explosive 29-yard touchdown run up the middle. Rawls had a big game for the Indians. The junior quarterback who holds offers from UAB and Jacksonville State completed 10-of-17 passing for 210 yards and two touchdowns while 164 yards on 17 carries and a touchdown.
Opelika was not done though. With 8:24 left in the game, Barnett scored on a 61-yard touchdown run and the Bulldogs took back the lead at 28-27 midway through the fourth quarter. Then late in the game Grindle hits the field goal for the Indians win. The Bulldogs had a chance in the end but the kick fell short.