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Caleb Turrentine / The Tribune Tallassee players go through one-on-one drills.

There was a small sense of normalcy Monday morning as the first practices of the season officially marked the return of high school football across the state. 

However, Tallassee’s normal may not be the same as everyone else’s. The Tigers made that clear once again this season as they hit the field at the stroke of midnight Monday morning, the fourth consecutive season to be started with their annual Midnight Madness practice.

“It was wonderful,” Tallassee coach Mike Battles said. “We’ve done this deal with midnight practices for going on four years but this one had a little bit more about it. We didn’t know if this one was ever going to get here so it was good. For today, we could take a deep breath.”

There was not too much difference from Tallassee’s summer workouts to the first day of practice. The players were still without their pads and the Tigers continued to work on installing their offensive and defensive schemes with some extra focus on technique.

But Monday’s practice hit a little bit different than the summer workouts and the players brought the energy the coaching staff was looking for.

“Anytime you flip those lights on, that heartbeat is a little bit faster,” Battles said. “The kids were excited in the locker room and they were jumping around coming on the field. It felt different.”

Battles has been impressed with his players throughout the offseason and they continued to show why during the first practice. After having a young team last season, it was clear Monday morning the Tigers have made some big strides in size and strength across several different positions.

“They never quit working,” Battles said. “They have been through something that is unprecedented. I have told them to practice like every one of them is your last. You have to make it count and they know that.”

Football stadiums across the country may look different this season and there are still several details needing to be ironed out prior to Week 0. But the game on the field may not be too different and Battles said he has been preaching that to his players. He still expects them to practice just as hard especially due to losing so much time in the spring.

“It’s going to just be practice like any other season,” Battles said. “COVID-19 may have changed some regulations but it’s still football. It’s about blocking and tackling and that’s not going to change, so we’re going to continue to do things the way we have in the past as long as we can do them safely.”

Battles said the players really lived up to that standard in the first practice of the season. He said there is still room for improvement but that will come in time, especially once the Tigers can get into full-contact practices.

“I thought it went well,” Battles said. “We were out there and everybody was getting in some work. We went out and went through a lot of our basic stuff. We’ve got all of our stuff installed for our first game but we want to get better at it.”

The Tigers are expected to move into shells Monday with a practice in full pads slated for next Wednesday and the team’s first scrimmage scheduled for the following Friday. 

“That’s a long time to go without full pads,” Battles said. “Football is still a hitting sport and you need some time to get used to it. We have to teach technique and make sure everyone knows what to do. We can do a little bit of it but it’s not the same as getting in those pads. So we have to take care of the mental aspect so they can be ready for it.”

Caleb Turrentine is a sports writer for Tallapoosa Publishers Inc.