For the 49th consecutive season, Elmore County and Tallassee will meet on the gridiron as the two teams will take the field at J.E. “Hot” O’Brien Stadium on Friday night. With as much history and tradition both programs have, it is rare to find a game in the series with as little on the line as there will be this week.
However, both teams know it does not matter what happened the rest of the season when they step on the field in this rivalry series. For the second straight year, neither Tallassee or Elmore County will be playing in the postseason and Friday is the season finale for both teams. But that certainly will not stop the programs and their fan bases from getting excited for Friday night.
“Both communities are rich in tradition in winning football games and going to the playoffs,” ECHS coach Jordan Cantrell said. “The last couple of years, neither of us have made it but there is still so much pride in the communities. We both still want to compete and we want to win.”
Tallassee leads the all-time series, 34-22-1, and it has defeated Elmore County the last three seasons. Tallassee coach Mike Battles said he knows there will be a big crowd on hand and he just hopes his players can put on a show for the home fans.
“I think the fans get more excited,” Battles said. “I live about 5 miles from Elmore County High School. Our coaches know each other; all of our players know each other; the fans hang out with each other. You have two close-knit communities and that’s what makes it exciting. This is what’s fun about high school football.”
Battles is 6-1 in this rivalry and he has never lost to Elmore County at home. Cantrell is newer to the rivalry but said it did not take him long to figure out how important this game was to the players and the community.
“This rivalry is a pretty big deal,” Cantrell said. “This is just my second time coaching against these guys but I learned about all of it pretty quickly. A lot of people around here won’t even let anyone in their household wear purple. That’s a big deal so it’ll be a fun time.”
Both coaches said it’s good to have a rivalry where they don’t have to motivate their players to get up and compete but they also don’t have to worry about a fight breaking out during the game because of players hating each other. Cantrell said he knows the teams dislike each other on the football field but once it’s over, everyone is going to get along like they do every other week of the year and Battles echoed that sentiment.
“These folks all root for each other except for one night a year,” Battles said. “Any time you have a rivalry that’s done the right way, it can only add to the high school sports experience. I’m glad we have a team to play like Elmore County. And once the game is over, we will all shake hands and whoever doesn’t win, you just have to lay low for the next 365 days and then we’ll do it again.”
Both teams are hoping to have a positive end to disappointing seasons and a win would take out some of the sting of missing the playoffs. A lack of motivation shouldn’t be a problem for either team as bragging rights in this series may mean more than a spot in the postseason in the long run.
“If you can’t get up for this one, something is wrong with you,” Cantrell said. “It should bring some extra energy to the team. This is the last time the seniors will be playing football together so there should be plenty of motivation.”