Auburn and Opelika Square Off in One of the South’s Oldest High School Rivalries
AUBURN HOSTS OPELIKA AS THESE TWO TEAMS SQUARE OFF FOR THE 95TH TIME
Auburn and Opelika will meet for the 95th time this Friday. One of the oldest high school rivalries in the south is also one of the most competitive games of the year.
“Every year we play them it’s going to be a battle. The past three years we’ve played them the game has been decided by less than four points,” said Auburn football head coach, Adam Winegarden.
“They’re going to play hard. They’re a lot like we are. There’s a lot of similarities between the two teams,” said Opelika football head coach, Erik Speakman. “Right now you can tell their quarterback has put in a lot of work. He didn’t play against us last year, he took over midway through the year so we haven’t seen him play.”
Matthew Caldwell found his groove with the Tigers last season after getting the starting job part way through the year. An injury cut his junior season short, but he’s using that as a learning experience for his senior season.
“I feel like it helped me from a self-confidence stand point. Just learning what I can do and what I’ll be able to do in the future,” says Auburn High Senior quarterback, Matthew Caldwell.
His leadership and skills under center have his teammates rallying around him.
“His style of play and energy in infectious to other people. I know the receivers love him because he can get them the football. He’s a really talented quarterback,” said Winegarden.
Caldwell and his passing ability is a point of emphasis for the Opelika defense.
“Our main concern right now is focusing in on defense and making sure they’re not able to throw the ball,” says Opelika Senior Running Back, Eric Watts.
Playing a rival provides motivation, but after a three point loss in the semifinals last season, the Dawgs aren’t lacking motivation for any game.
“Just to see how close we were last year really motivates us because we were one or two plays away from State. It’s all in the back of our minds this year and it’s keeping us motivated,” said Opelika Senior Wide Receiver, Will Beams.
Although there will be a limited capacity on Friday night, the environment will be one to remember.
“You have a see of blue on one side and a sea of red so it’s a slice of America,” says Winegarden. “When you think of high school rivalries and you think of high school football and what it does for communities, if you come to this game that’s what everybody should picture.”
“It will still be an electric atmosphere, it will still be a big game. We would meet them down at the Wal-Mart parking lot to play. It doesn’t matter where we play, we just love playing. We love playing Auburn,” said Speakman.
kickoff is at 8 pm Eastern, 7 Central at Duck Samford Stadium.