Tallassee is not a program familiar with the feeling of entering the fourth week of the season without a win under its belt but this year’s team is sitting squarely in that exact scenario.
After losing the first two games of the season, the Tigers took a bye week to work on themselves and get a jump start on preparation for this week’s matchup with Sylacauga to start play in Class 5A Region 4.
“I think we had a really good week,” Tallassee coach Mike Battles said. “We went ahead and started putting in some of the game plan … We need to win a ballgame to build some confidence. We have a tough opponent and that’s part of it. But there’s no better way to get confidence than winning a football game.”
Tallassee (0-2, 0-0) will host Sylacauga, another team hungry for a victory after it dropped its region opener to No. 1 Clay Central last week. Entering the season, the Aggies were one of the frontrunners to challenge the Volunteers for a region title and despite the defeat, Battles was impressed with what he saw from the game film.
“They have really advanced and their guys are getting more comfortable with the system,” Battles said. “They have some tremendous players. If you don’t tackle them or have them covered, they can go the distance on every play.”
Sylacauga (2-1, 0-1) is now under the direction of former Alabama quarterback Andrew Zow and Battles credited the first-year coach with his ability to match his system with the available personnel. Brayson Edwards has taken on the role of quarterback and while he can provide a potential threat on his own, Sylacauga’s offense thrives because of the number of players Edwards can give the ball too.
Running back Maleek Pope is chasing after a Back of the Year plaque, off to a quick start with more than 500 rushing yards to his name already. Dontavius Ware is a speed threat on the outside with Caleb Burns and Luke Vincent providing options for Edwards deep down the field.
“They spread you out,” Battles said. “They put you in situations where if you play the pass, (Pope) can go the distance and if you pack the box, they are going to throw the long ball. Their quarterback does a good job of throwing those. They put a lot of pressure on you and line up in a lot of different variations of formations.”
Sylacauga’s defense has looked susceptible at times, allowing four touchdowns in all three games this season. Tallassee hopes to have similar success and will look to get the ball to Jalyn Daniels early and often.
After the bye week, the Tigers will also have running back Marciano Smith at full strength and are expecting Duke Washington to be available to give Tallassee another option in the passing game and at defensive back.
“He gives us more speed on defense in the back,” Battles said. “He’s also one that can go down field and go up and get a ball. He is going to win a lot of those 50-50 balls.”
After the first two weeks of the season, Battles said he hopes playing two tough opponents in Reeltown and Wetumpka will pay off down the road. He said he still has to see it happen on the field but just from the practice field, he has seen plenty of progress since Week 0.
“I think we’re further along,” Battles said. “Every goal outside of winning the first two games is still in place. We can still achieve those things and they understand it. They are pushing themselves and working as hard as they can.”
PREDICTION: Tallassee 21, Sylacauga 20