Trailing by six at halftime following sophomore running back Zavion Carr’s 64-yard touchdown scamper with six minutes left in the half, it appeared the Tallassee Tigers had momentum on their side.
However, what proved to be a defensive struggle in the first half, turned into a highlight reel for Greenville in the second half as the home Tigers ran away with a 33-7 Class 5A Region 2, victory Friday night.
Despite the loss, Tallassee coach Mike Battles believes his Tigers (1-2, 0-1) had some bright spots against Greenville, which lost to Vigor in the state semifinals last season.
“We played good in spurts,” Battles said. “I thought that we played a good first half. They scored one touchdown on our defense and then we were unfortunate to throw two interceptions for touchdowns, which you can’t do. We turned the ball over four or five times, and I don’t care who you play, if you turn it over four or five times, you’re going to get beat. Now, you throw in a really good, athletic team like that, you’re going to get beat bad.”
Following a scoreless first quarter, Greenville drew first blood when freshman defensive back Jonathon Purifoy snagged an interception and raced 52 yards for the touchdown with 8:59 left to play until halftime. The extra-point kick was no good, giving the home team a 6-0 lead.
Less than three minutes later, junior running back Kirsten Hawthorne showed off his speed by taking a handoff 61 yards for the touchdown. The PAT put Greenville on top, 13-0.
Carr returned the favor on the next drive scoring on his long run. Clay Johnson’s extra-point kick cut into Greenville’s lead 13-7, but that was the only scoring the visitors managed in the game.
Greenville went on to score three touchdowns in the second half — two in the third quarter and one in the fourth. The hosting Tigers scored on a 1-yard run by 6-foot, 290-pounder Jamar Jackson, who also added the two-point conversion, and a 78-yard interception return by senior defensive back Jalen Collins. In the fourth, GHS scored on a 40-yard dash into the end zone by sophomore running back Jermaine Abner.
Greenville coach Josh McLendon said his defense step up big to lead his team to victory.
“That’s what we are; we’re a defensive team,” he said. “Greenville is always going to play defense. They set the tone for us in the second half and got us to where we needed to be. Anytime you can get scores on defense, that loosens everything up. When your defense gives you 14 points, that’s huge.”
After the game, Battles acknowledged his Tigers’ youth and tough start to the season.
“We’ve got a lot of young kids and they’re having to get tough in a hurry,” he said. “We knew Greenville was good, but we’ll rebound. We’re going to go back to work; we have another good football team to play next week, and hopefully we’ll get these mistakes corrected. The thing about it is when you play good football teams that are really athletic, little mistakes tend to look real, real big because they cause them to be. Maybe on another night, some of the things we did, we might could have overcome, but you can’t do it with a good team like that.”
Next week, Tallassee hosts Carroll of Ozark in another region contest.
“It’s a tough slate; you’re going to have to play them,” Battles said. “Hopefully our kids will grow up and continue to mature and get tougher. Somewhere along the line, we’re going to turn the corner.”
Friday night, THS started six sophomores and a freshman quarterback, according to Battles.
“They are getting better each week, they make mistakes — we knew they were going to — and that’s just something you’re going to deal with, but hopefully down the line, we’ll cut those mistakes down and they start having some success,” Battles said.