Opelika didn't wait long to name a new football coach.
One day after Caleb Ross was approved as the head coach at Prattville, the Bulldogs promoted longtime assistant Erik Speakman to the position. He was to be named at a news conference Wednesday afternoon.
The 44-year-old is in his 18th year at Opelika overall. He's been the team's defensive coordinator since 2011.
"It's going to be a tremendous honor, being a head coach at a top five program in the state," he told AL.com. "It's an honor just to coach at the same place Doug Barfield, Spence McCracken, Brian Blackmon and others have coached. I love it here. That's a big reason I've never left. It's just a special place."
After spending one year under Terry Curtis at UMS-Wright, Speakman was hired by McCracken at Opelika. He has remained with the Bulldogs under Blackmon and last year under Ross. He applied for the head coaching position a year ago when Opelika decided to hire outside the program.
"I went through the interview process last year, and they decided to go outside the school," he said. "With Caleb's decision to go back to his home school, I think they were looking for some stability and a guy who has been here a long time.
"A lot of guys I coached earlier in my career now have kids going through middle school. It's pretty cool when you can go to a daddy-daughter dance and you see former players with their daughters there. It makes you feel good."
Speakman said he doesn't plan a lot of changes moving forward. He announced that Jonathan Chandler will remain offensive coordinator. Speakman will still call the plays on defense.
"I'll put my twist on some things I'm sure," he said. "Brian was an offensive coach. My strategy will be a little different. But we will still develop kids the same way. We always talk about making kids into great young men, great husbands, great fathers and it is not just something we put on a poster here. We really emphasize that."
Speakman is hoping he can bring his school the long-awaited Blue Map. Opelika has played for the Class 6A state twice in the last five years, losing to Ramsay 21-16 in 2016 and to Hoover 31-0 in 2012.
"It obviously takes a lot of good players and a good bit of luck," Speakman said. "The first time we made it to the title game, we were significantly overmatched against a great Hoover team. Two years ago when we played Ramsay, we had a great run and thought we had a good shot, but they played better that night.
"It's such a hard five-game run to get there and, once you are there, you almost have to play a perfect game because of the competition. We'll eventually get back there and, hopefully when we do, we can get it done. I know we are still hungry to bring home that first title."
The good news for Speakman is that Opelika isn't broken - no where close. The Bulldogs suffered through an injury-plagued year in 2017 but still won nine games and reached the state quarterfinals. They haven't won fewer than seven games since 2010 and haven't missed the playoffs since 2009.
Speakman is a graduate of Athens High and Auburn University. He served as a graduate assistant coach at Auburn under both Terry Bowden and Tommy Tuberville. He and wife Drew have three sons and two daughters.
Congratulations Opelika Football Head Coach Erik Speakman! GO DAWGS! pic.twitter.com/xTIdKrI6Dt- Opelika Football (@footballopelika) February 21, 2018