Battles previews season
By Michael Butler
Tallassee head football coach Mike Battles, Jr. wants to see his Tigers get over the hump. They have been good with 30 wins in his four seasons, but the purple and gold's playoff path has not surpassed the second round since 2005.
"Teams that make it deep in the playoffs have some quality players," said Battles. "You've got to have a quarterback, but I think the biggest thing to have deep run is to have a mature football team. You have to have kids that are willing to come out and go to work every day."
Those elements were there for Battles in 2012, his first at Tallassee. The squad was inches away from a rematch with Charles Henderson in the quarterfinals, a team that the Tigers beat on a last-second Nick Mullins 45-yard field goal during the regular season. On the final play, a two-point conversion try against Dora, Dijon Paschal was ruled down just shy of the goal line in the 41-40 overtime loss.
"Dijon's had a lot of success and so has Jed Carter. They enjoyed playing the game," Battles added.
Paschal and Carter were seniors at wide receiver and quarterback that season. Paschal is now a redshirt junior at Arkansas State and preseason all-conference selection. Carter is with the Chicago Cubs organization pitching in rookie ball.
"When you have those kind of kids in your program, the rest of the team feeds off of that," Battles noted. "We've got some this year. We've got Logan Goodman, Nick Talley, Jamarkus Miller, Jake Baker and Brady Hancock. These are guys that have been starting three and four years."
Battles likes his quarterback too, junior Casey Baynes.
"Like Jed. If it's third and eight I want the ball in his hands," he said. "We have a good nucleus of seniors that are really good leaders. They lead by example. We've had a lot of them help in coaching the young kids. We have all of the components with kids who are interested in getting better."
The strength of the team is up front according to Battles.
"The front seven on both sides is strong. This is probably the offensive line since I've been here.
Tallassee drops back down to Class 4A football in 2016; however, Battles is not expecting an easier road with region foes like Munford and two-time defending state champion Leeds.
"We've gotten into a very strong region. By the time we hit Leeds in week eight, we'll have played seven teams that could have beat us."
Although the competition might be stiff, Battles likes his group's chances.
"I think this bunch can be as good as any team we've had. The potential is there. I like this team. They are fun. I like getting out there with them."
The Tigers travel to Seale for the season opener on Friday, Aug. 19. This will be the tenth meeting in the series. Tallassee is 9-0 against the Warriors with a 40-14 victory in the last meeting in 2011.
"In the first game," Battles said, "it'll come down to three things;
special teams, conditioning and turnovers."