Tallassee midnight practice

Jordan Hill / Opelika-Auburn News Tallassee hosts its first practice at midnight Monday.

For the third consecutive year, Tallassee took things up a notch to officially open its football season. Monday marked the first day of practice for teams across the state but the Tigers wanted to get a jump start on the competition and hit the field at 12:01 a.m. for a full practice as they prepare for their season opener which is just over two weeks away.

“We actually had a really, really good football practice,” Tallassee coach Mike Battles said. “As long as we keep doing that, we’ll be in good shape once that first game against Montgomery Catholic gets here.”

Battles said there was about 75 to 100 fans in attendance at the practice which shows the event has built excitement not just with the players but around the community. Battles said he never did a midnight practice before his time at Tallassee but the players have pushed it as a new tradition.

“We do this because the kids want to,” Battles said. “I asked the seniors again last week if they wanted to do this again and they did. It really gets the excitement going and it’s about them so why not? We still got a lot done and had a really good practice.”

Tallassee’s coaching staff hopes the energy can carry over into the start of the season but Battles also said he knows the team has to find a balance between excitement and staying focused. With the Tigers having such a young squad this season, it could be easy for the underclassmen to get caught up in the moment of the midnight practice but Battles said the older players helped keep everyone on the right track.

“They practiced really hard and there was a lot of hustle,” Battles said. “Those young guys will do exactly what they see the older guys do. We will need them to step up at some point in the season so you have to lead and they’ll do it if the older guys do so we need them to set the tone.”

During the first two days of practice, players are not allowed to be in pads yet due to AHSAA’s heat acclimation rules but there was still plenty of work to be done. The team is continuing to work on the schemes it will use during the season but Battles admitted people are already looking forward to getting back into the full pads.

“During this time, what we really want to go over those days is installing what we couldn’t get right in the summer,” Battles said. “But we’re looking forward to getting those pads on because we definitely need to hit a little bit too.”

Tallassee opens its season in Week 0 with a trip to Class 4A No. 5 Montgomery Catholic on Aug. 23 and Battles said he wants his players to understand they do not have a lot of time to get prepared for it.

“It’s definitely a sense of urgency right now,” Battles said. “We really only have 12 practices before that first game and we tell the kids that. We want to use the next five or six practices to get where we want to be. They have to push themselves and the more they do that, the better we will be.”

Elmore County also got its season officially started with a Monday morning practice this week. The Panthers did not see much change on the field from the summer workouts during the first day but coach Jordan Cantrell said there was a new energy among the team.

“The summer is organized too but there’s definitely a shift of mindset this week,” Cantrell said. “This is the first day of real practice. Today was a long day but the kids had high energy and they were really mentally focused.”The Panthers do not start their season until Week 1 but their first opponent of the season, Marbury, plays in Week 0 so Cantrell wants to make sure his team is prepared just as quickly. Elmore County has an intrasquad scrimmage eight days before its first game and it will be a good way to measure where the team needs to improve before the opener.

“Once we have that scrimmage, you want to be peaking up,” Cantrell said. “That’s when we want to be ready. We want to be game ready by Week 0 even though we don’t play an official game that week.”