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Cliff Williams / The Tribune Elmore County's Jordan Cantrell against Lincoln.

Editor’s Note: This is the fourth in a series of stories analyzing the 2020 football seasons for the six Elmore County teams.

After seeing disappointing results for the first two years under coach Jordan Cantrell, the Elmore County football team is due for a change of pace and the Panthers should get one with a new region and schedule in 2020. Unfortunately for Elmore County, it does not look like things are going to get any easier as the Panthers jump to Class 5A and have a daunting Region 4 schedule to go with it.

“It’s going to be tough on us, no doubt about that,” Cantrell said. “I think this is the toughest schedule I have ever had and probably that Elmore County has had in a long time. It’s going to be fun though. You want to compete against the best.”

The region includes rivals Tallassee and Holtville plus defending state champion Clay Central. Cantrell said the Panthers know it won’t be easy but they’ve  been in a tough region before so they are prepared for this.

“Our region the last two years was really tough so that helped us,” Cantrell said. “And I know this is a tough 5A region. Week in and week out, we’re going to be challenged but this is a great opportunity for us as a team and as a program to get better. We just have to be ready.”

For the first time in Cantrell’s tenure, Elmore County is slated to start its season in Week 0 as it will hit the road to face Moody in a non-region game. The Panthers scheduled another 5A school in non-region play, finishing the season at home against Jemison and Cantrell said getting those teams on the schedule was important.

“We have to get geared up for region play,” Cantrell said. “We better get used to playing those 5A teams and we can use it to prepare. We think those are the teams that can help us do that.”

Elmore County’s non-region opponents are wrapped up with Dadeville and White Plains. Cantrell said he wanted to keep Dadeville on the schedule as the two schools have played every year since 2010.

“We really wanted to keep them on the schedule and I know they did too,” Cantrell said. “We have had some really competitive games the last couple of years. It’s just a really good for both communities.”

White Plains is a new opponent for Elmore County; they’ve never met. The Panthers have also never faced Sylacauga or Moody and have not played Jemison since 1966.

“We wanted to have people on the schedule we didn’t know a lot about,” Cantrell said. “We thought that could be a good test for our guys and coaching staff.”

Cantrell did not want to put too much stock into any preseason predictions this far from the first game but he admitted the Panthers have very little time to waste with a tough three-game stretch right off the bat to start region play.

Elmore County will travel to play Clay Central in Week 3, a game sandwiched between rivalry matchups with Holtville and Tallassee. Cantrell said the region opener against Holtville could make the rivalry game bigger than it has been in past years.

“That’s going to be huge,” Cantrell said. “That game is amplified more and more every year. We expect to see a big crowd that night. It’s turned into a big rivalry and to have it for the first region game will make it even bigger.”

Caleb Turrentine is a sports writer for Tallapoosa Publishers Inc.