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Caleb Turrentine / The Tribune Elmore County’s Sean Darnell (7) is tackled by Tallassee’s Mason Bell (41) and Ziggy Holloway.

For the first time since 1995, Tallassee has now gone three years without making a postseason appearance but this season certainly had a different feel to it than the last two. The Tigers somehow shook off the program’s slowest start in nearly two decades and were seemingly in great position to make their return to the playoffs before COVID-19 hit the team at the worst time, basically securing its season’s fate.

With all of that going on, Tallassee coach Mike Battles is still trying to stay positive and he hopes his players can do the same thing.

“You can look at everything in a negative light or a positive light,” Battles said. “I try to find positives in everything. Back in March and even June, we didn’t know if we were even going to play football. It’s been an emotional roller coaster. I think when we look back on this, the kids will feel fortunate they still got to play in those eight games.”

That roller coaster ended on a high point last week when the Tigers defeated Bullock County in a “no contest” game. Tallassee already knew it would finish the season with a 3-7 record but the game gave the Tigers one last opportunity to win a game on the field.

“I think it left them in a happy mood,” Battles said. “Those 12 seniors, it was the last time they were going to get to play football. We got a game in and they got to walk off the field as a success one more time.”

Even with missing the playoffs, the ending was certainly more enjoyable than the beginning of the season as the Tigers started the year with three consecutive losses including one to rival Reeltown. However, the slow start did not stop the players from putting in the work.

“They just kept practicing,” Battles said. “It was not the start we wanted and it has been a long time since we had lost three games in a row. To start the season off like that with everything else going on, it would have been real easy to throw in the towel. They kept fighting though.”

Things appeared to be turning a corner when the Tigers turned to Jalyn Daniels, who moved into a full-time role as a running back once region play began. He recorded consecutive games of at least 250 rushing yards and four touchdowns to lead Tallassee to region wins over Elmore County and Beauregard.

“I think that will be a highlight,” Battles said. “He had some tremendous games. He’s a special type of talent and he is only going to get better. I look for him to have a great year next year.”

Unfortunately, there was not much more Daniels could have done in the ensuing weeks as Tallassee was forced to shut down for two weeks dues to COVID-19. When it returned to the field, the Tigers had a short week to prepare for their first game back and they were no match for defending state champion Clay Central.

The tough week against the Volunteers was a theme for Tallassee’s season as the Tigers had their most difficult regular season schedule by total opponents’ wins since 2015. Tallassee’s schedule included six losses to teams who are now in the playoffs and two losses to teams who finished in the top five of the ASWA Class 5A rankings.

While Tallassee may not have been ready to face those challenges this year, Battles believes it could pay off in the long run especially with some of the potential his team showed this season. There were signs of greatness that came on both sides of the ball and with a class of 21 juniors set to return next season, expectations are already climbing.

“We did some great things,” Battles said. “We’re going to return the biggest senior class we’ve had in my nine years here. They have all been playing together for a long time and I think that’s going to help out.”

Caleb Turrentine is a sports writer for Tallapoosa Publishers Inc.