Mike DuBose, the Alabama head football coach in the 1990s, is still having fun coaching football on the high school level at his alma mater of Opp.
“I love the game and I love the kids,” DuBose said. “Some of the stuff you have to do to get to the field, I’m not crazy about that, but it’s worth it to get to the field to do it.”
DuBose had been helping Opp as a defensive coordinator for two years before stepping up and taking the head coaching role last year after Brent Hill resigned after seven years as head coach and athletics director to take the head coach job at North Florida Christian in Tallahassee, Fla.
Figuring he would just bridge the gap for a year, DuBose led the team to a 9-3 record, 5-1 in Class 3A, Region 2, and is back in charge this year.
“I was trying to groom somebody else to get the job, and it just didn’t work out … didn’t think they were ready and the administration didn’t think they were ready,” DuBose said.
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“But in the process of doing that, I was building the team last year, but I wasn’t building the program. I really felt like I had messed it up more than I helped it from a program standpoint.
“I felt like it was my job to stay and fix the program part. That’s what we’re trying to do right now. Sometimes building a team and building a program are two different things.”
While the Bobcats certainly had a season to be proud of a year ago, DuBose believes it could have been better.
“We had a better team than we ended up playing at the end,” DuBose said. “I thought we should have gone to the third, maybe even the fourth round (of playoffs).
“We made it to the second, but really didn’t play very well at all. T.R. Miller (35-14 winner in playoffs) had a lot to do with that, too. You’ve got to give them credit.”
Opp lost 20 seniors from last year’s class, but DuBose doesn’t believe there will be much of a fall in talent. He also believes there are plenty of good young players on the way.
“We’ve got a pretty decent senior class coming up,” DuBose said. “Our junior and sophomore classes are smaller, then we’ve got some seventh, eighth and ninth grade classes that are coming that are going to be really good.
“I feel like if we can build the program right, somebody is going to be stepping into something that’s going to be really good in about three years.”
As for now, DuBose is looking to replace six starters on offense and seven on defense.
“But we’re also returning some guys who played a lot and are good players,” DuBose said. “We’ve got our starting quarterback back, Gray Jennings (6-1, 215 senior), and it starts with him. He’s a really good player. We’ve got back our starting running back, Terry Davis.
“Our receivers have all played a lot. Jabbari Hill may have the best ball skills that we’ve had in some time. JaKanye Mount is a 6-6 receiver that runs pretty decent and creates some match-up problems.
“One of the focuses for us is running better routes and being able to read off the defenses. I think our quarterback and receivers are doing a better job of that, so I feel pretty good there.”
Across the front, Caden Kendrick returns at left tackle and Prent Huggins is back at left guard.
“Our biggest concern is our center and right guard and right tackle,” DuBose said. “I think they’ll be good, but I don’t think we can line up and just expect them to knock somebody off the football. We’ve got to do it a little different way than we’ve done it the last couple of years on that side.”
Despite losing seven starters on defense, DuBose likes what he has returning.
“We replace them with guys who have played an awful lot,” DuBose said. “In our secondary, Jabbari Hill will start at one corner and Terry Davis will start at the other and they’ve both started for us in the past.
“Our two safeties, Robbie Gafford at strong safety has really started for us for two years now. Then A.J. Coleman, who started for us at outside linebacker, we’ve moved him to free safety. He’s got a little bit more range.
“We’ve taken our free safety from last year, Nelson Hall, and moved him to Sam linebacker. He’s just so aggressive; we’ve got him a little bit closer to the football. Our outside linebacker to the weak side will be Landon Langley. He’s a tough little kid.
“The two inside linebackers, Colby Ballard started for us last year and we’ve got a sophomore, Jaymaryon Allen, will play there and be our back up running back as well.
“Our two defensive ends, I think, have a chance to play college football at some point and time. A.C. Hightower and on the other side Javion Stoudemire. Both are about 6-3, about 245. Both will be 10th graders.”
DuBose remains confident as the season approaches.
“I like our football team, but I’m concerned about our depth,” DuBose said. “We’ve got a lot of guys playing both ways.”
BOBCATS AT A GLANCE
Head coach: Mike DuBose (2nd year at Opp, 8-3; 8th year as a high school head coach, 47-35)
2021 record: 8-3 overall, 5-1 in Class 3A, Region 2, first round of Class 3A state playoffs
2021 results: at Geneva (W, by forfeit from Geneva, COVID); at Elba (L, 28-33); at New Brockton # (W, 27-0); Houston Academy # (W, 49-21); Daleville # (W, 55-0); Straughn (W, 42-0); at Providence Christian # (W, 41-18); Wicksburg # (W, 49-6); at Slocomb # (L, 7-40); at W.S. Neal (W, 34-8). STATE PLAYOFFS: at T.R. Miller (L, 14-35)
Points scored/per game: 346/34.6 (in 10 games played)
Points allowed/per game: 161/16.1 (in 10 games played)
Returning offensive starters: Not available
Returning defensive starters: Not available
Aug. 19 at Andalusia
Aug. 26 at New Brockton #
Sept. 2 Northside Methodist #
Sept. 9 Providence Christian #
Sept. 16 at Pike County #
Sept. 23 at Rehobeth
Sept. 30 off
Oct. 7 at Daleville #
Oct. 14 Houston Academy #
Oct. 21 Straughn #
Oct. 28 Ashford #
# Denotes region contests