|Battles masked up last season
Photos by Kyle Thornton
Battles previews season
By Michael Butler
Tallassee fielded its first high school football team in 1921. The first coach was Arthur Noble.
In all, there have 25 different coaches at the helm at THS. Mike Battles Jr. is the 25th. His tenure at Tallassee ranks only behind John Edward "Hot" O'Brien - the namesake to the stadium where football began and is still being played today.
With the first century of football in the books, Battles is ready to start the next in what will be his 25th season as a head coach - his 10th in Tallassee.
"This is my 27th year in education. I was an assistant (coach) for two years," said Battles. "I guess it's a good thing because I still think I'm 18. It's hard for me to believe that I've gotten to do what I love for 25 years. I don't plan on retiring."
Last season's COVID year was unlike anything that Battles has witnessed in his coaching years.
"It was the worst year," Battles added. " I think it was really tough to keep your mind right last year. I hated it for the seniors and all the football players. I hated it for the band - everybody extracurricular. Hopefully these kids can have somewhat of a normal year."
Officially, Tallasse's record was 3-7. Two of those losses were by forfeit in regional games (Talladega, Holtville) that cost the Tigers a playoff shot.
That fuels the fire even more for Battles' club headed into 2021.
"I think we've got a really good football team. We've got a bunch of guys that have played three and four years. If anything they know what it's going to take."
Among the seasoned returnees is Tyler Ellis. The junior quarterback will kick off the season on Aug. 19 at Reeltown as a three-year starter.
|Jalyn Daniels hurdles a Beauregad defender
"A lot of these guys went out and took their lumps as ninth and tenth graders," Battles said, "On offense, we've got nine returning starters and probably the most veteran offensive line we've had. We've got Marciano Smith and Zavion Carr. We've got Jalyn Daniels at tailback. He's no secret anymore."
Daniels rushed for 1,168 yards in the 2020 shortened season.
"All the smaller schools are looking at him as a tailback," Battles said of Daniels' early college offers. "Auburn is interested in him as a defensive back. He can play just about anywhere. He has all the skills. He's a good person. We're looking for a big year from him."
Daniels spent much of the summer attending college camps and turned many heads with his speed.
"I've clocked two guys that have run a 4.37 or 4.38 (40-yard dash)," Battles noted. "The first played for me at Bibb County. He set every rushing record for the Vanderbilt Commodores. He played in the NFL for four years - Zac Stacy.
"I handtimed (Jalyn). The first time was a 4.37. I said, 'No way.' He ran another one - 4.37. That afternoon, Coach (Kynjee) Cotton from Samford called me an asked how fast he was running. I said that I clocked him twice with a 4.37. Jalyn goes up there and runs a 4.38 the first time. Coach Cotton calls me while he's out on the field and says, 'You weren't lying.'"
Battles expectation remains to be a playoff team. The Tigers have missed the playoffs the last three years after ten straight post-season appearances.
"I'm closer to the end than I am to the beginning," said Battles. "I don't want to waste one. I don't want to waste a game. I don't want to waste a practice. I don't want to waste anything. I've tried to relay that to our kids, especially our seniors.
"Football is a dangerous sport. You never know when it's your last play. The seniors are going to snap their fingers and it's going to be week ten. We're going to be ready for the playoffs and taking up the gear. It happens that fast. I really believe that they're hungry to get out there and get Tallassee back where it needs to be."