Tallassee Valley

File / The Tribune Tallassee running back Marciano Smith is expected to be back at full strength after two bye weeks.

After three weeks of being off the field, Tallassee will hit the road to travel to Valley for a Class 5A Region 2 football game as the Tigers look to improve their chances at a postseason spot. The Rams will present a different challenge than they have in the past and their 3-0 start in region play has pushed them to be the favorites for the region title.

However, Tallassee coach Mike Battles said his team is still cherishing the opportunity to get back in action and will be up for the test.

“We’ll be glad to get back on the field,” Battles said. “It seems like it has been forever. We’ve had a good two weeks and made some progress but our kids are ready to play. You can preach too much so it’s time to get back out there.”

For the first time in his coaching career, Battles faced back-to-back bye weeks but he believes his team still got better from it. He knew the Tigers would not have problems with it in the first week but when they came out with even better workouts on the first day of the second week, Battles knew they would be OK.

Because of the bye weeks, Tallassee (2-2, 1-1) got an early start on planning for Valley. Battles said the team focused on itself for the first week but it has been fixated on the Rams for a week already.

Valley (4-2) enters on a four-game winning streak after starting 0-2 against non-region teams. After making a switch to KD Hutchinson at quarterback, the Rams have been undefeated and have recorded 34.3 points per game.

“They aren’t even the same offense that they were in those first two games,” Battles said. “They have changed personnel so much. They have a new quarterback in there so there’s not a whole lot you can draw from those first two weeks.”

Joining Hutchinson in the backfield is running back BJ Baker. The two combined for 433 yards and five touchdowns in last week’s win over Marbury. Hutchinson has accounted for at least one touchdown in all six games.

“They have two players who are phenomenal,” Battles said. “Their quarterback and their tailback are both sophomores but they’ll play Division I college football. They can fly and the offensive line does a good job blocking. If they break, we don’t have anyone on our team who can catch either one of them.”

The Tigers are going to be focused on limiting those explosive plays and Battles said it starts with their offense. Battles wants to limit the number of times Valley’s offense is even on the field to keep the ball out of the playmakers’ hands.

“If we are going to have success Friday night, we are going to have to move the football,” Battles said. “If they get 13 to 15 times with the football in this game, we’re probably not going to have a lot of success because they’re just too explosive.”

Defensively, Valley has stepped it up a notch, limiting its opponents to just nine ppg in region play. Tallassee quarterback Tyler Ellis will expect to face a lot of blitzes as Battles expects his offensive line to be tested early and often.

“They just have a lot of athletes,” Battles said. “They are big up front with defensive tackles who play hard and they have guys around them who can run really well. You’re under pressure the whole time. They come after you.”

Valley already has a 20-14 win over Greenville and handed Carroll a 42-13 defeat but Battles said he does not think those results will factor into this week’s game. He said his players will not be intimidated by past games.

“We don’t even mention that,” Battles said. “We watch film on those games but I don’t think it will be an issue. With the league we play in, anyone can beat anyone else on Friday night. You can be the best team but if you don’t play well, you’re going to get beat.”

PREDICTION: Valley 35, Tallassee 14

Caleb Turrentine is a sports writer for Tallapoosa Publishers Inc.