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Caleb Turrentine / The Tribune Tallassee coach Mike Battles directs his players during warmups at Monday’s midnight practice.

After months of hype surrounding the return of the Tallassee-Reeltown football rivalry, the two teams are finally ready to hit the field Thursday night for the actual competition. Preparation has not been the same as it was in past years but time for the season opener has arrived and the coaches are confident in how their players have handled the preseason.

“We’re as good as we can be until we play a game,” Tallassee coach Mike Battles said. “We have practiced hard and the kids have done all the things we have asked of them. We are as prepared as we can be without having go through spring training. Now it’s time to play a football game.”

Reeltown coach Matt Johnson echoed that sentiment and while the excitement of the rivalry is not being overlooked, his players are just ready to hit the field against other competition. Johnson said this game is like most season openers as it is about seeing how good your team is for the first time and what needs to be worked on moving forward.

While the teams are focused on their own improvements in the first game, both coaches admitted to having more trouble preparing gameplans and schemes for this season opener than in years past due to not having any spring or summer competitions to pull information from.

“They do some things similar to what we do offensively, judging just by what they have done in the past,” Johnson said. “But it’s still really tough to prepare for especially when you don’t have anything recent to go off of.”

The Tigers return almost all of their skill players from last season which may give Reeltown a slight advantage on who to be on the look out for but Johnson said he still expects some wrinkles to be thrown in to the mix.

Tallassee is in a different boat as the Rebels lost a majority of their star cast which led them to the state title game last season. Battles said that has made it more difficult to piece together the best gameplan possible.

“We got plan A, B and C,” Battles said. “When you go into that first game, that’s going to happen when you play a new opponent. They graduated tremendous talent. We feel like we know what they’re going to attempt to do but we know we may have to adjust on the fly. We have tried to prepare the best we can.”

Battles said he has gotten some insight from some of his own players, maybe even more than he has from watching film. 

They know those kids more than we do,” Battles said. “They have been playing together since they were five and six years old.”

One of the new faces Tallassee will be keeping an eye on is new starting quarterback Gabe Bryant. The Rebels may look to throw the ball more throughout the season without Cameron Faison in the backfield but Johnson is not trying to put too much pressure on Bryant this early in the season.

“With a new quarterback and a lot of new faces, the main thing we are looking for him to do is to stay composed, be a leader in the huddle and manage the game,” Johnson said. “It’s about understanding you don’t have to do too much. You just have to do your job.”

Tallassee was in a similar situation last season and while a young quarterback is still under center, the Tigers may be asking for him to do more than just manage the game. Sophomore Tyler Ellis is beginning his second season as the starter and Battles believes he is prepared to make the passing attack more of a threat.

“We’re expecting Tyler to make the good throws and make the throws that count,” Battles said. “The more multiple we can be on offense, the better. If we can do that, we’re going to be pretty good. Last year, we told him not to lose a game but this year, he has to lead us and put us in position to win a game. That’s what we expect him to do.”

PREDICTION: Tallassee 26, Reeltown 14

Caleb Turrentine is a sports writer for Tallapoosa Publishers Inc.