THS kicks off '17 season Friday
By Michael Butler
It seems like the seasons are starting to run together for Tallassee head football coach Mike Battles - and it's a good thing. Battles enters his sixth season at THS this fall looking to build off of a quarterfinal run in the playoffs last year.
"When time is moving fast it must mean things are going good," he said. "It just seems like we finished last season. Now, here we are about to play a football game. It really has flown by. Usually, losing seasons tend to last forever."
The Tigers went 9-4 in 2016. It was the deepest post-season run since 1999 for Tallassee. Battles feels the pieces are in place to be a contender again this season.
"All the way around, it's probably the best whole group that we've had here in a while."
On offense, Tallassee's strength is with its skill position players. The Tigers return their leading passer, receiver and ground gainer.
Senior Casey Baynes accounted for 37 touchdowns last season, passing for 1,733 yards with 22 TDs and rushing for 792 with 15 scores. Markevious Matthes surpassed the 1,000 yard mark in rushing with 1,086 yards on 155 carries and six touchdowns. Jake Burton caught 43 passes for 545 yards with six TDs.
"Casey was a huge surprise for everybody last year. He was by default picked to play quarterback. It turns out that was a great move because he had such a great year. He's continued to improve. We have three good sized receivers in Jake, Kalvin Levett and JJ Griffin."
Trent Cochran-Gill will work with Matthews in the backfield behind a relatively inexperienced offensive line.
"We've had to shift people around," said Battles. "If they can perform we'll be just fine."
Expect to see a handful of players play on both sides of the ball with losses of graduates like Nick Talley and Jake Baker. Baker's younger brother Andy will be one of those players expecting to get very little rest on game nights.
"We have some young kids who can come in and get the job done, so we can take some of the guys out who are playing both ways. The more kids we can get involved, the better off we'll be down the road," Battles added.
Among Tallassee's big wins last year was a 21-12 victory over eventual state champion Handley, so Battles is aware of the capability with his returning cast.
"If you look at the last five years, when we've had great leadership we've had good football teams. We have the potential of having a good football team. The biggest thing is identifying that leadership. Everybody wants to be a leader on Friday night, but the time you need those leaders is Monday - Thursday. Friday will take care of itself. I think we have some good leadership. I think we have the right people in the right places."
Tallassee kicks of the 2017 season vs. Russell County on Friday, Aug. 25 at 7:00 at J. E. "Hot" O'Brien Stadium. The Tigers won last year's matchup 25-0.