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Caleb Turrentine / The Tribune Tallassee runs out on the field prior to Friday’s game at Elmore County.

Tallassee was one of the frontrunners to claim a playoff spot in Class 5A Region 4 and the Tigers controlled their own destiny just two weeks ago. However, that control was taken away from the team when players had to quarantine due to COVID-19 for two weeks, forcing Tallassee to forfeit two crucial region matchups.

The Tigers (2-6, 2-3) are still technically in the playoff hunt but they are up against the odds, needing a couple of upset wins to go in their favor beginning with their trip to Lineville to face No. 4 Clay Central on Friday night. If Tallassee wins and its rival Elmore County defeats Talladega, Tallassee will secure a playoff spot.

“We can only control what we can control,” Tallassee coach Mike Battles said. “Our best bet is to take care of our end of it and see how it works out. We have seen some strange things happen and there are still a lot of things to play so we are going to relay that to them and make sure they understand that.”

While the Volunteers will provide a big challenge on their own, Tallassee’s biggest challenge may come on the practice field. After two weeks away, the Tigers will finally return to their first practice Wednesday, getting just two days to prepare before their trip to Clay Central.

“They’re going to be excited to get back to practice,” Battles said. “But we’ve never had to do something like this and I’m sure there is going to be some challenges. It’s tough to say after being gone 14 days what it’s going to look like.”

While it will not be an easy task for the Tigers, Battles is not doubting anyone’s motivation for coming back to the field even if the postseason is out of their control.

“You can’t take anything for granted because as we found out, it can be taken away at the drop of the dime,” Battles said. “It’s a tough lesson but I think these kids will want work hard and are ready to play again.”

Clay Central (7-1, 5-0) has already clinched the region title and is coming off a scheduled bye weeks as the Volunteers are gearing up for the postseason where they hope to claim their third consecutive state title.

“If you’re ever going to be the best, you have to play the best,” Battles said. “They are just solid and they play with a lot of confidence. You’re going to have to go beat them they don’t make many mistakes… We’re going to give them a good run for their money.”

The Volunteers’ biggest strength this season has been their offense where they are averaging 39.9 points per game behind a balanced attack led by quarterback Boyd Ogles and a trio of running backs who have each recorded at least one 100-yard game this season.

“If we had four days, you might could change some things to prepare for that,” Battles said. “Just having two days though, it’s going to dictate to us what we’re going to be able to do. Defending them is going to be a challenge.”

On offense, Tallassee hopes to take some of the momentum it built up before the shutdown when it averaged 53 points in its last two region games.

“Hopefully we haven’t forgotten how to block in the last 14 days,” Battles said. “If we can block, our running backs will still hit the holes but it’s hard to say where we are at this point until we get back to practice.”

PREDICTION: Clay Central 31, Tallassee 21

Caleb Turrentine is a sports writer for Tallapoosa Publishers Inc.