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For the last three weeks, Caleb Turrentine and I have been counting down to the football season by breaking down each area football team on our Inside the Lines Podcast preview series.

It’s hard to believe but game week has finally arrived. We concluded our preview series by taking a look at the bigger schools in our coverage.

Beginning with Tallassee last Thursday and ending with Benjamin Russell on Tuesday, we spent a lot of time talking about just the sheer excitement of the upcoming season.

“The kids are getting excited,” Tallassee coach Mike Battles said. “It’s getting time to play. We’ve been practicing now for a long time — summer practice and all that. … It’s getting to the point where you need to play somebody to see where you need to get better.”

The big question mark surrounding Tallassee is its young offense. Although the Tigers return a solid defensive core, it’s not the same on the other side of the ball. Tallassee will have a lot of underclassmen starting, including freshman Tyler Ellis who has been named the starting quarterback.

Battles is a seasoned coach, though, and he understands the cyclical nature of high school football so he should be ready to coach the Tigers to play at the best of their ability.

“All of them are going to be first-time starters and that in itself brings some challenges,” Battles said. “Just patience and making sure you go A, B, C, D and don’t go A and try to get to Z in a hurry. With an older bunch, they know all the basics so you can add to the playbook. With a younger group that’s first time around, you gotta make sure they know all the little things.”

We then moved to Class 6A Region 3 where Stanhope Elmore, Wetumpka and Benjamin Russell all compete, and it’s one of the toughest regions in 6A by far.

“I just don’t think you’re going to find a tougher region,” BRHS coach Kevin Smith said. “If we focus on our region and where we stand, I think we have a good chance to play with these guys and compete. If you can do that, if you can come out of this region and host a playoff game, you need to buckle down because you could be in for a long playoff run hopefully.”

The region also consists of Opelika, a normal powerhouse, and Calera and Selma, both of which should be improved this season. Stanhope Elmore surprised some people last year and the expectation is for the Mustangs to be even stronger this season.

In 2018, the SEHS defense was dominating, especially up front, and defensive coordinator Hunter Adams stopped by Inside the Lines Podcast to give listeners an inside look into his team’s potential this year.

“When you’re an offensive guy, you don’t want to see more than one guy that you have to game plan around,” Adams said. “Defensively when you’ve got a couple of those guys you can do some disruptive stuff. You can be creative. You can cut guys loose. I’m not saying by no means that we’re immortal up front; I don’t want to give that perception. But we’ve got some talented guys that can play hard and do some things.”

The opposite is true of Wetumpka, which returns a lot on offense but has some more questions on the defensive side.

Explosive plays were the name of the game for the Indians a year ago, and as they try to make it back to the state championships, more of that should be expected.

“We’re very confident in our running game,” Wetumpka running back Terrance Thomas said. “It starts with our offensive line. As long as they are doing what they’re supposed to do, we’re going to do what we have to do. Our rushing attack is going to be even better than last year.”

Make sure to listen in to Inside the Lines Podcast to hear the full interviews with Battles, Smith, Adams and Thomas, and we are officially into football season. But the podcast doesn’t end here. We will preview each week, beginning with a Week 0 preview which will be released today.

To listen to the full interviews with our coaches and players and the rest of the preview podcasts, visit us online. We are also available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify. If you have any questions for us or special guests, feel free to reach out and we’ll get those answered for you as well.

Lizi Arbogast is the sports editor at Tallapoosa Publishers, Inc.