As it entered Burt-Haynie Field on Friday night, Tallassee was desperate for a victory after starting the season with three straight losses. By the time the Tigers walked off the field, they had a victory in hand along with some bragging rights as they defeated Elmore County, 49-21, in the Class 5A Region 4 showdown.
“That cures a lot of problems,” Tallassee coach Mike Battles said. “We just needed to get back on the winning side of things. Tallassee is not used to losing and that’s been tough on the kids. They have continued to work and now it helps out to get a ‘W.’ There’s nothing like winning.”
Tallassee (1-3, 1-1) had a big night on offense as it scored seven touchdowns on its first seven drives of the game and never needed to punt the ball.
The Tigers got a career night from Jalyn Daniels who scored four unanswered touchdowns spanning the second and third quarter. He finished with 372 yards and five scores on just 21 carries but he wasn’t the only one doing damage on the ground.
Tallassee racked up 512 rushing yards as a team, needing just 37 attempts to make it happen. Zavion Carr and Cade Everson both added rushing touchdowns before the night was over.
“I’ll need to watch the film but I have a really good idea that we blocked well (Friday night),” Battles said. “Jalyn had a career night. We are finally getting everyone where they need to be. It just was a good night for everyone.”
Elmore County (1-4, 0-3) lost its fourth consecutive game but it showed plenty of fight in the first half.
The Panthers fell behind first but quickly responded by a big drive which included a 34-yard completion from Payton Stephenson to Zion Reed on a fake punt. Sean Darnell scored the first of his two touchdowns on the night to level the score.
“We ran the ball effectively when we needed to,” ECHS coach Jordan Cantrell said. “We added some looks and we wanted to do that. I just kind of came up with that plan earlier (Friday). It was effective at times but it wasn’t effective enough.”
Elmore County even had the opportunity to take the lead after recovering a fumble on the ensuing kickoff but its next drive stalled at Tallassee’s 22. That became the theme of the night for the Panthers’ offense.
Before the first half was over, Elmore County saw another drive end, this time inside the 10-yard line as the clock expired for the end of the half. The Panthers had three more drives end inside Tallassee territory.
“The first half we clicked pretty well but we still didn’t capitalize on some,” Cantrell said. “We started off well in the second half but turned the ball over and we didn’t respond well to that. There were some bright points offensively but you have to capitalize.”
Elmore County finished with 31 more offensive snaps than Tallassee and even recorded four more first downs. The Panthers controlled the clock for the entire night.
“They were draining the clock,” Battles said. “They did a good job of limiting our possessions. That was their game plan and they did a fine job of that. We had to have some stops. We had a few big time stops at the goal line.”
The back breaker for Elmore County came early in the second half. The Panthers quickly drove down the field and were inside the red zone once again when Tallassee’s Ziggy Holloway jumped up to intercept a tipped pass from Stephenson. Daniels struck again immediately, this time on a 99-yard touchdown run to double Tallassee’s lead and the Tigers never looked back.
“If they go in to score, it’s a tie game again,” Battles said. “He stops that and goes up to get that ball then the next play, Jalyn goes 99 yards. I think that really turned the tide. That put the momentum in our direction and we were able to get in control.”
Elmore County got a late touchdown from Stephenson on the ground to cut into the lead. He finished with 169 yards through the air and 128 yards on 23 rushing attempts but it was not enough as the Panthers fell to the bottom of the standings with just three region games remaining.
“We have a lot to work on with this team but I wouldn’t want to do that with anyone else,” Cantrell said.