ECH VS MARBURY6 use.jpg

Carmen Rodgers/ TPI Elmore County’s Nathan Jones (48) tries to outmaneuver Marbury’s Cedric Calloway (3).

Talladega boasted an explosive offense throughout last season, including a 47-point performance in a Class 4A Region 4 win over Elmore County. The Tigers are hoping to duplicate that performance this year when they travel to Eclectic to face the Panthers and Talladega will get to rely on quarterback Nigel Scales to provide that boost this time.

“They’re a very athletic football team on both sides of the ball,” ECHS coach Jordan Cantrell said. “They have a lot of really good players and a new coach this year so they’re doing a lot of good things right now.”

Under first-year coach Shannon Felder, the Tigers have seen a down tick in offensive production but there aren’t too many differences schematically. Talladega (1-1, 1-0) is averaging just 21.5 points per game but Cantrell said the Tigers still have the talent to put up 40 points against any defense.

“They’re still spreading the field out,” Cantrell said. “They’re running the football well and throwing the ball down field. Defensively, they apply a lot of pressure so that’s changed a little bit but it’s a lot of the same stuff.”

At the heart of that same offense is Scales, who accounted for all four touchdowns during last week’s 28-8 win over Childersburg. The quarterback missed much of last year’s game against Elmore County with cramps but he still led two touchdown drives in the win and he is back for more.

“He’s a very good football player,” Cantrell said. “He has great legs and we have to try to contain him as best we can. That’s a hard job to do and that’s a hard job for anyone to do at this point. Plus, he’s really good at throwing the football too.”

Scales has the help of a strong cast of receivers including D’Corian Wilson who led the team in receiving last season. Michael McGregor and DJ Spratling also caught touchdowns against Childersburg.

“It’s hard to mimic what they have, especially explosive guys like that with our scout team,” Cantrell said.

Elmore County (0-2, 0-1) has not made the postseason after starting 0-2 in region play every year since 2007 so the Panthers know the importance of this week’s game. Cantrell said he is not looking for shift in mindset but he expects his players to step up despite the slow start to the season.

“It’s never easy to lose a football game,” Cantrell said. “We don’t want to get used to losing because it hurts. We want to win and this week we have Talladega so we have to have a sharp week of practice and get back to the drawing board.”

Dylan Weaver took snaps at quarterback last week for the Panthers but Cantrell said they are not committed to selecting a starting quarterback yet as Brody Ward is still in the competition. Meanwhile, Elmore County is expected to get some players back from injury while offensive linemen Sam Jones and Coby Mann remain questionable. After blowing a two-touchdown lead in last week’s loss at Leeds, Cantrell said depth is an issue for the Panthers but they have to find a way to get over that hurdle.

“We were down starters and we had some cramps in the fourth but you have to fight through those things,” Cantrell said. “We just weren’t able to finish. We’re going to keep conditioning them in practice and make sure they’re hydrated as best as they can be while they’re with us.”

PREDICTION: Talladega 33, Elmore County 28

Caleb Turrentine is a sports writer for Tallapoosa Publishers Inc.