Editor’s Note: This is the third in a series of stories analyzing the 2020 football seasons for the six Elmore County teams.
During Mike Battles’ tenure as coach of the Tallassee football program, he has made sure to keep his players battle tested in the regular season. The Tigers are no strangers to tough schedules but Battles may have gone above and beyond that for the 2020 season.
Tallassee is slated to meet seven teams that made the postseason in 2019, including two that made it to Auburn for the Super 7. The Tigers will meet plenty of familiar faces in Class 5A Region 4 play but the non-region matchups do not get any easier as Tallassee’s first three non-region opponents combined for 30 wins last season.
“When you look at our schedule, you know it’s going to be a challenge from top to bottom,” Battles said. “I think this is the most challenging schedule Tallassee has seen in a long time. I didn’t set out to do that but it happened.”
Tallassee will open its 2020 season by renewing two big rivalries. The Tigers will start the year by hosting Reeltown on a Thursday night as the two teams are scheduled to meet on the field for the first time since 2003.
Reeltown is coming off its best season since 2010 and the Rebels have made the postseason in 12 straight years. But they are set to move to 3A this fall and a lot of the top-tier talent is graduating this year. However, Battles said he expects the series to still be very competitive and a lot of fun for both programs.
“(Reeltown) coach (Matt) Johnson and I sat down and talk things through,” Battles said. “This just feels like the right time. This was a big game for both communities and it’s a great rivalry. We all get along and we just felt like now is a good time to start it up again.”
The non-region schedule does not get any easier from there as the Tigers will travel to Wetumpka for the second game of the season. The matchup will mark Tallassee’s first game against a 6A opponent since 2017.
Pike Road is also on the non-region slate as the Patriots and Tigers agreed on a midseason date in Week 5. The Patriots finished 11-1 last season and return plenty of talent as they jump two classifications to 5A this year.
“It’s one of those things where you have a floating week and you’re at the mercy of what other teams have that same week available,” Battles said. “They’re right down the road so it’s good financially for both of us and they have a great football team. The coaches down there wanted to do it and we signed on.”
Region play does not look any easier for the Tigers as they look to end a two-year drought from the postseason. Tallassee has been in a region with all six of this year’s opponents prior to 2020 but not at the same time.
Tallassee will reunite with county rivals Elmore County and Holtville as both move up to 5A. Talladega makes the jump as well while Beauregard and Sylacauga are no strangers to Tallassee either.
The biggest region game is a trip to Clay Central in the final week of region play as the Tigers will face off with the two-time defending 5A state champions. Battles said he knows that one stands out on paper but he’s not worried about anyone looking past other opponents for a shot at the Volunteers.
“Our kids are good about that,” Battles said. “They don’t even know who they are playing next week. But I do like where they are scheduled because we should be playing our best ball at that point in the year. That goes both ways though and it doesn’t help when they have (Clay Central coach) Danny Horn over there.”