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Cliff Williams / The Tribune The Tallassee defense brings down Montgomery Catholic's Tee Whatley.

The first four games were always going to be difficult for Tallassee but the Tigers have an opportunity to come out of the first half of the year with a .500 record and enter the bye week on a victory. Tallassee coach Mike Battles know there is a lot on the line this week when the Tigers take the field at J.E. Hot O’Brien Stadium for the first time in 2019 against Carroll.

“I think our players who have been around understand the importance of this game,” Battles said. “We beat them last year at their place and it was a physical game. I hope our guys respect that and know what we have to deal with but it’s a very important game. The pressure is on when you get in these region games. It’s a big ball game. If we don’t win this one, we’re going to be in a hole.”

Tallassee (1-2, 0-1 Class 5A Region 2) was on the road for the first three weeks which included trips to face a top-5 team in Class 4A, Montgomery Catholic, and a 2018 Class 5A semifinalist, Greenville. Carroll may not be at the same caliber as those opponents but nothing comes easy in region play so Battles said he hopes returning back to friendly confines will give the Tigers a boost.

“It’s our first home game so I sure hope there’s a big energy,” Battles said. “When we get out there on our field and wear our new home uniforms for the first time, I hope there’s that it factor in being at home for the first time. I’m sure our fans will be excited so I really do hope there’s another level of excitement this week.”

After starting the season 2-0, Carroll had a bye week so this game will be the region opener for the second consecutive year. The Eagles are hoping to get back into the playoffs after going 4-5 and losing their first regular-season game since 2015 last season.

Carroll boasts a strong rushing attack again behind three capable backs and a quick quarterback. The Eagles have to replace all-state running back Jonathan Fells but with the likes of Willie Burks, D’Quarious Fryer and Nathan Ward, they have found plenty of success on the ground.

“They are big, big, big,” Battles said. “There’s not a lot of surprises. They line up in the pro-I with two tight ends and they run it downhill at you. They have a 250-pound tailback, a fullback and their tight ends are really just big offensive linemen with the wrong number on the jersey.”

Battles said the Carroll offense looks no different from what the Tigers have seen in the past but stopping it is easier said than done. The Eagles will wear down defenses with the rushing attack while mixing in a few opportunities for quarterback Brandon Robinson to make plays through the air or with his feet.

“They don’t have a whole lot of plays but they run them very well,” Battles said. “Finding the game plan is one thing but executing the game plan is something else. You have to anchor in so if you’re not up to having a physical football game, you’re not going to have a lot of success against them.”

The Tigers have to take care of the ball better than they did against Greenville but Battles said it’s not something they will have to work on more in practice. He said they already prioritizes taking care of the ball but turnovers still happen sometimes and they just need to execute better.

“We were just trying to force things against a really good football team,” Battles said. “They put us in a lot of uncomfortable situations. We always teach to value the football. It’s better to punt than turn it over because of momentum and the psychological aspects of it but we just had a bad second half. That’s going to happen with a lot of young kids against a good football team.”

PREDICTION: Tallassee 14, Carroll 13

Caleb Turrentine is a sports writer for Tallapoosa Publishers Inc.