Despite coming into the football season with some doubts surrounding its offense, Tallassee found several bright spots throughout the year but ultimately fell short of its goal of returning to the postseason. The Tigers saw their fate decided after a loss to Charles Henderson in Week 8 but that did not stop them from finishing strong and closing another season with a winning record.
“Our seniors could have just thrown in the towel,” Tallassee coach Mike Battles said. “But these kids around here have a lot of pride so they felt they had a lot to play for still. They went out and worked hard so that was a special thing to see.”
Tallassee (5-4) defeated Beauregard and Elmore County in its final two games to finish above .500 for the fourth consecutive season. The Tigers have not had a losing record in the regular season since 2011 when still went to the playoffs.
“Winning those two big games at the end of the season kind of changed the whole outlook of the season,” Battles said. “We went out with a winning record so I think it gave our kids something to feel good about. Those are the things they remember more than anything else.”
All four losses were to opponents who are still alive in the postseason, including Class 4A No. 2 Montgomery Catholic. The Tigers also grabbed two wins, Handley and Rehobeth, over teams in the playoffs.
“Any time you can play tough competition week in and week out, it will make you better,” Battles said. “We have a young team and they came a million miles because of the competition we played.”
Battles continued to brag on how the young players developed throughout the season. Freshman Tyler Ellis saw more and more chances as the season went on and he got plenty of valuable experience leading the offense in his first varsity season.
Ellis was not the only player on the offensive side to see big strides in improvement. Sophomore running backs Marciano Smith, Jaylin Daniels and Zavion Carr all saw time in the backfield and allowed leading rusher Tavarious Griffin to take a breather when needed while the Tigers still had success on the ground.
“I think our coaches did a good job of putting some personnel groups together to help take the load off of Truck,” Battles said. “We were running some of the same plays but other people got to carry the ball and I think that made us better in the long run. It’s hard for me to look at them and think it’s the same group in Week 10 that I saw in Week 1.”
Griffin still led the way on offense including having a career night in the win over Beauregard which was the first time the Tigers defeated the Hornets during Battles’ tenure. Tallassee focused on the rushing attack no matter who was carrying the ball to keep the clock moving in most games and Battles said he has no doubt that was the best option for success.
“Any time we could control the ball on offense, we were going to have success,” Battles said. “That kept us in a lot of games. We are not one of those high-powered offenses so we knew that would be what we needed to do coming into the season and I think it worked out well.”
While the Tigers struggled to find success on the road, they finished with an undefeated record at home for the second time in the last three years. Tallassee was 4-0 at J.E. Hot O’Brien Stadium, outscoring its opponents by 15 points per game.
“Well it’s going to be hard for me to argue about home-field advantage now after you look at this season,” Battles said. “It’s great to have the big crowd we have and it was a good way to finish the season. That’s the way high school football is supposed to be.”