On Friday, the Auburn High football team will try to accomplish something it hasn't since the 2011-12 seasons — beat rival Opelika in back-to-back match-ups.
"They’re Opelika, and we know that we’ll be playing a great traditional power on Friday," said Auburn High coach Adam Winegarden. "At the same time, we feel like we have a really good program, too, and we have a lot of tradition, too, so it’s just going to be two great schools and a great game."
The annual showdown between the Opelika and the Tigers , who edged the Bulldogs 17-13 last year, carry bragging rights for the winning community. Bringing the two sides together every year is, in large part, what makes the rivalry great, said Winegarden.
"The thing we all know that this is a big game for both communities and it’s a great game because there’s a lot of excitement around it and it brings two communities together," he added. "I think anything that does that, whether it’s a sporting event or any other type of event, I think it’s special and I think that’s what America’s about is bringing people together."
Aside from notching a second win on the season, a primary focus in the game for the Tigers will be to continue the process of improving.
"At the end of the day, we’re also in a 10-week process of trying to get our team to where we’re the best prepared we can be at playoff time," Winegarden said. "We’re in that second step of that. There’s a big part of this week that has to be about improving as a team, just as much as it’s about preparing to play."
The Tigers notched a convincing 42-0 win over Wilcox-Central in the season-opener last weekend, picking up valuable experience for everyone on the roster.
"At the end of the day, that was a very uncommon opponent, so from a team-perspective more like a preseason game, getting everybody use to Friday night and playing," he said. "You go into a game like that to hopefully get a lot of people involved, so they can get a feel for making plays in a game. That was definitely part of the though process going into the game."
First-year starting quarterback Griffin Speaks made a strong debut in the opener, throwing for four touchdowns in the first half. Winegarden said he was encouraged by how Speaks improved as the game went on.
"I thought Griffin, the more he played the game, which he didn’t play long, but the more he played in the game the more comfortable he got. The good thing is if there was an error he corrected it on the next series. Those are things you’re looking for — you’re looking for just that process of getting better throughout the game."
The Tigers will try to keep the momentum going when they host Opelika at at 7 p.m. in Duck Samford Stadium on Friday.