News Sports Opinion Photos Social Classified Obits Contact
 
 
 

A Century of THS Football
Part VII - 1982-86

By Michael Butler

Ronnie Baynes passed the football torch after the 1981 season. His state championships in baseball had yet to come. The next five seasons would produce three different football coaches at Tallassee. That doesn't mean it was all bad. There were a few firsts - in a good way.

Marc Rice was hired to take over the program in 1982. The Tigers were just 1-9 in Baynes' final season and were on an eight-game losing streak when Rice arrived.

That streak came to a stop in Rice's first game with a season-opening win at Wetumpka 14-7. It appeared that things might be looking up, but Tallassee would win just one more game in '82 going 2-8.

Once again, THS ended the season on a losing streak - six straight. But things changed in 1983.

From the advent of the AHSAA playoff system with four classifications since 1966 (the first year excluded the 1A, 2A and 3A classes), no Tallassee team had advanced to the post-season.

From 1966-82, only five Tallassee teams had winning seasons. Ken "Tank" Mitchell's 1968 and '69 teams were 7-3 and 7-2-1 respectively. Ronnie Baynes' 1975 squad went 6-4. In '76 they were 8-2. In '78 the Tigers were 6-4.

The 1976 team's two defeats came against Lanett (27-0) and Stanhope Elmore (45-20). Lanett advanced to the playoffs as area champions with a perfect regular season under Dan Washburn.

In those days, only the region champion advanced to the playoffs. Two strong 8-2 teams were left out in Stanhope and Tallassee.

Here Come the Tigers!
Tallassee takes the field for its semifinal game in Brewton on Nov. 30, 1984 vs. T.R. Miller

1983 would be the final year of the four-classification, region format. The next season, the classifications expanded to six and regions became areas. A rarity for Tallassee in '83 was an 11-game regular season schedule.

"Coach Rice didn't like having a bye week, so we added Benjamin Russell," quarterback Shane Yankey said. "He thought we needed to play more than we needed to rest."

It was a 180-degree turnaround from 1982 to '83. Tallassee went from two wins to 9-2-1 and made the playoffs for the first time in school history.

"I think a lot of it had to do with him coming in and putting in the wishbone," Yankey said. "We had some pieces of the puzzle in place. It didn't fit. The next year everybody had a year under their belt. We just had a better team. The offensive line was so much better, defensively too. We were young his first year. We came into our own my junior year. We had a good senior bunch of linemen; Rhett Dennis, Michael Fanning, Billy Moseley, Tom Wallace and Richard Rogers."

Dennis went on to play at Livingston College, now West Alabama.

Rhett Dennis at Livingston

"Remember the classifications back then were different. We were 3A," said Dennis. "If Valley had not beaten Lanett, we would been 9-1-1 and not even made the playoffs. That was probably the hardest classification Tallassee has ever had to compete in."

John Goodman remembers the grueling regimen that began in the preseason.

"It was tough every week," Goodman said. "We went through 18 days of two-a-days. We never went home. We were there from 6 in the morning to 8 at night. We started out with a whole bunch, but the time we got to the season it was whittled down pretty good. The season was 11 hard weeks. Then we made the playoffs.

"We had a senior-laden team. We went from one win, to two wins, to nine. Most of us seniors started coach Baynes last year and all the way through. By the time we were seniors we were ready to roll. The only thing we were missing was a quarterback. Shane came in and filled that spot, and he could throw."

Tallassee's only loss came to Lanett 12-3. The Tigers had a tie game at Auburn 20-20 that Goodman said could have turned out differently.

"I missed an extra point. I thought it was good. I missed one in my career and that was it. We were ahead the whole ball game. Over at Auburn, it was not like it is now. Everybody sat on one side. It was like 3/4 of the field was Tallassee and 1/4 was Auburn. We just took over the place. They battled back to tie us. That's what we say. They tied us. We didn't tie them."

Defensive coordinator Frank Autery said the tie was the only one in the state that season because new overtime rules were already in place.

"The officials left," he said. "They scored on the defense to tie the game. We ran a stunt and missed the tackle."

Goodman caught a ball late that would have given Tallassee a field goal chance to win, but the pass was ruled incomplete.

"I caught it. They said I didn't it."

Yankey recalled the play in the final minute.

Yankey (left) and John Wilbanks with Coach Rice

"(John) made the catch to get into field goal range. It was a catch," Yankey said. "John was a heck of a field goal kicker. We were well within his range. It wouldn't have been a long field goal."

As for the loss to Lanett, sometimes a team just has the other's number. That was the case in those days with Lanett vs. Tallassee. Lanett had won seven straight against the Tigers entering the late October contest in '83.

The Panthers entered the game with a 4-4 record. Tallassee was 7-0-1.

"It was just one of those games," Goodman recalled. "We were better than them at every position. We played like crap the whole ball game and basically gave it away."

From 1962-86, Lanett was 22-1 against Tallassee with the only loss coming in 1975 by a score of 7-0. Lanett leads the all-time series 39-22. The Tigers have not played their rivals from Chambers County since 2001.

Tallassee and Dadeville have played 66 times, second only to the Wetumpka series, which returns this season and has been played 67 times. The '83 Dadeville game was a shutout victory for Tallassee, 21-0.

"Wayne Keahey got me fired up," Autery said of Dadeville's head coach. "They put it in the Montgomery Advertiser. 'Country boys coming to whoop up on the city boys.' Wayne Keahey, look at that scoreboard. You didn't even pass the 50-yard line. He shouldn't have said that. Then we shut them out the next year."

Tallassee's biggest win in 1983 was against Stanhope Elmore. The 15-14 fourth quarter comeback against Stanhope Elmore at a jam-packed J. E. "Hot" O'Brien Stadium became one of Tallassee's most monumental victories. The game is known as the "Jo Jo get 'em off the goalposts game."

Solomon Rivers, the 1984 team MVP, pictured with Coach Frank Autery

"That game was epic," Dennis said. "It was far bigger than the win over Wetumpka (28-7). The Valley game was big when we beat them 17-7 in Valley that year. I don't remember much. I've taken too many hits to the head, but if I'm not mistaken the school buses stopped in downtown Tallassee in front of the police station and we had a party in the street."

The "Jo Jo" game - as it has become known - against Stanhope came into being through radio analyst Timm Timmerman. Timmerman and Jack Mitchell were calling the game on WTLS. After the Tigers' victory, Timmerman was concerned that students would take down the goalposts and yelled to Jo Jo Ledbetter to "get 'em off."

"That's one statement that will live with me forever. I guess if you've got to be famous for anything, you might as well be famous for that," Timmerman said. "It was an exciting night to say the least. I got a little bit carried away. It was definitely one of the top five ball games I've ever seen that a Tallassee team has been involved in. Stanhope had led pretty much the entire ball game. It was pretty much like Jack and I figured going into the ball game. Stanhope was a better team even though we won."

Goodman talked about the atmosphere at the stadium.

Trey Taylor (left), Michael "Grits" Dennis (front, center) and Shane Yankey in '84

"It was magical. This is one of the biggest crowds I've ever seen at our stadium. They're ten deep around the track. They're three deep around the wall."

The Tigers not only had to win the game to punch their ticket to the post-season, they needed some help. Valley had to beat Lanett in the final regular season game.

At the end of the Stanhope/Tallassee game, a fight broke out between the two squads. That was when the word came down on the Lanett/Valley outcome from public address announcer Freddy Patterson.

"As it's going down you could hear Freddy on the loud speaker," said Goodman. "He announces the score of the Lanett game. Valley beats Lanett, so we go to the playoffs."

Valley won 34-20.

In Tallassee's wild finish with the Mustangs, Stanhope scored with under two minutes to play to tie the game at 14-14. Prior to their touchdown, Goodman spoke to Yankey on the sideline.

"I said if they're going to score, they need to go ahead and score. They've got to give us some time. There was 1:52 left. They gave us too much time. We come out in our two-minute offense. It's two wideouts and two wings. We run out routes. We start moving and clicking. We get it to the 20, catch one and get out of bounds. We call a timeout and move me to tight end. They change up what we're doing. I run a little out route. Shane hits me and we score."

Timmerman talked about the moment of decision when an extra point would tie the game but a two-point conversion would put Tallassee in front.

The '83 team during their 41-0 win over LaFayette

"Tallassee had no intention of getting into overtime. They decided to go for two," Timmerman added. "John Goodman, in probably the biggest catch of his entire life, caught a two-point conversion in the back side of the endzone. I don't see how they got the ball to him through the goalposts. It seemed that John was standing behind them. He got the one foot down."

As for the two-point play, coach Marc Rice had one.

"We practiced it every day," Goodman said. "That's one thing that coach Rice did. Coaching with coach (Mike) Battles and playing for coach Rice, they are a lot alike. They make sure that everything is covered. "We knew that we could do it. It was just going out there and executing it.

"Everybody had a spot. My job was to come in to the hashmark pylon. I set up on the back line by the goalpost. Shane rolled out to the right side. His first look was to the wing running down the goal line. The next was to the corner. I was the third look to the middle. On replay you can watch him. He looked off the other two and threw it back across to me. They say it was a little high. I don't remember that. I just remember catching it, coming down, making sure my toes were in the field of play and looking straight at the official to make sure the hands are up. Then it was celebration."

Program Cover to 1984 Tuskegee Game

Even after Tallassee took the 15-14 lead, Goodman still felt that it might be too much time for Stanhope. There was still 52 seconds remaining. Plus, Goodman had spiked the ball and drew a penalty after the Tigers score.

"I made a mistake. We get a 15-yard penalty. I kicked it deep enough. Mark Gantt intercepts it with two seconds to go. Everything breaks loose. It's a free-for-all. They tackle Mark and start fighting on their sideline."

WTLS broadcaster Jack Mitchell turned his play-by-play of the game to the extracurricular activities and editorialized his feelings for Stanhope in the process.

"There's a fight," Mitchell said. "They have a Tallassee Tiger over there. It's breaking out all over the field. It's a melee. Stanhope had a Tallassee Tiger and about 12 were on him. They have no class. They've never had any class."

Officials ended the game although two seconds were still on the clock. Then the attempt to tear down the goalposts ensued.

"Absolute pandemonium set off. That's when I kind of went crazy," said Timmerman. "I wanted to go down and rip them off the goalposts myself. Jo Jo Ledbetter was sitting on the top of the press box helping the film crew. I tried to use him as my courier. About the time I yelled, Ray Sides entered the fray. He didn't have to hit them, but he did stop them."

Trey Taylor was among the ones attempting to tear down the goalposts.

"I put Ronald Wood up on one side. I was climbing up the middle. Mr. Ray tugs me by my leg and says, 'You need to get down.' Everybody was excited. The stadium was stacked up. Whoever won was going to the playoffs."

The 1983 Tigers

The 1983 squad climbed to No. 7 in the ASWA rankings that season and ended the year at No. 10. It was Tallassee's first time in the poll since 1961.

The Tigers traveled to Sylacauga for its first playoff game.

Goodman

"That was one of the coldest games I've ever been in," Goodman said. "They took our passing game totally away from us. They basically had two to three on us all night long. We relied on our running game. We came up just shy."

The Aggies won in overtime 20-14. Solomon Rivers was stopped just short of the goal line on Tallassee's final play of the game in the extra frame.

"We ran 48 to Solomon," said Yankey. "I could've bootlegged it. If I'd pulled that ball, I could've skipped into the endzone. Hindsight is 20/20. When the game is on the line you want the ball in your best guy's hands. He was our best running back."

Rivers thought he had scored.

"I got hit in the backfield and kept running," Rivers said. "I dive and half of my body was in the endzone, but the referee said I was short."

Goodman talked about the respect for the 1983 team and his fellow senior classmates.

"There were so many of us that put it on the line every game. Each was a leader in their own way. It made everything click. You were scared to mess up because you didn't want to disappoint the one that was next to you. How everything evolved was awesome."

Goodman continued his contribution to his alma mater in coaching. It began at first on the baseball diamond the year after his high school graduation.

"Coach Baynes broke his leg in the 1985 season. He was on the sideline telling me what to do. We went to the finals and played Wilson. I went down to Faulkner and made the team and played four years of college baseball."

Goodman succeeded Baynes in 1993 with Tallassee's baseball program winning state titles in 1995 and '98.

"It started in '85. Both of us were down in the youth leagues. The rules allowed that back then. We were getting everybody ready. My season would end early. I'd come back and help coach Baynes. I was there most of the time. I started full-time in '89. It was rolling."

A Solomon Rivers TD

After the 1983 season, Marc Rice left Tallassee for a job with Muscle Shoals. Yankey was one of the first to receive the news.

"I was at Auburn's football camp. Pat Dye called me into his office. Coach Rice told me personally before I heard it through the grapevine."

Rice spent nine seasons at Muscle Shoals putting together a 51-47 record from 1984-1992. His best year was in 1988 when the Trojans went 12-2. He coached three more years from 2003-05 at Shades Valley going 5-25.

Yankey believes the 1983 team might be the best to ever take the field at Tallassee, although the '84 team during his senior year had a semifinal run in the playoffs.

"We benefitted from going from four to six classifications," Yankey said. "The '83 team would've beaten the '84 team. The '83 team is probably the best team I've seen Tallassee have. You could put the '99 team up against it. Some would make the argument that the '99 team was better with a much better record and reaching the semifinals. If I was a betting man, I'd probably bet money on '83. The '83 team was just so big."

Rivers also commented on his junior and senior teams in '83 and '84.

"I think we had more talent," Rivers said of the 1983 season. "We had teams that could've (both) won state championships."

1984 squad on the sidelines

Autery said that the '83 team "built the foundation" for the successful run that was to come in 1984.

"They set the precedent. They came in, worked hard and dedicated themselves. They bought in to coach Rice's program," Autery noted. "They found that winning was good."

Steve McCord was hired in 1984. His previous two years were at Holtville with playoff appearances both seasons.

McCord, a product of Marbury High School, played college football at Troy State. He had a state championship under his belt, albeit in the state of Florida at Ernest Ward in 1979.

The '84 Tigers with a TD in the 28-0 win over LaFayette

"I knew Tallassee had some good talent returning," said McCord. "It was a little difficult coming in without a spring practice. We had some good skill players in Shane Yankey, Solomon Rivers, Earl Piner and Chris Vaught. We had some lineman that had played some with a little bit of size. I knew there was potential.

"Shane was a great quarterback probably one of the best I've ever coached. He was very smart and knew the offense better than I did. He knew when we had a good play called and could recognize when we didn't. He had a good arm and managed the game well."

Through the first half of the regular season, the Tigers were 2-3.

"We had some injuries early. We had four or five starters out," McCord added. "We struggled a little, but as the year went along we got healthy and got some momentum."

1983       1984    
vs. Wetumpka W 28-7   at Wetumpka L 28-14
at Auburn T 20-20   vs. Handley L 34-20
vs. LaFayette W 41-0   vs. Tuskegee Inst. W 49-12
at Tuskegee Inst. W 36-6   at Chilton County W 21-19
at Valley W 17-7   at Lanett L 10-7
vs. Dadeville W 21-0   at Reeltown W 36-21
at Elmore County W 34-3   vs. Elmore County L 28-25 (OT)
at Holtville W 28-13   vs. Beauregard W 27-0
vs. Lanett L 12-3   at Stanhope Elmore L 27-21
at Benjamin Russell W 35-21   at Dadeville W 28-0
vs. Stanhope Elmore W 15-14   vs. LaFayette W 41-14
vs. Sylacauga L 20-14 (OT)   vs. Handley W 28-21
        at Fayette County W 28-7
        at T.R. Miller L 17-7

One of Tallassee's biggest wins was a last-second victory in Clanton, 21-19.

"We had to call a timeout. Some say there was 47 seconds left," Autery said of the time left matching the number of Solomon Rivers, the player that would score the touchdown to win it. "We drew a play up in the dirt. Solomon caught it with his broke (thumb) for the touchdown."

Rivers told of the injury.

"At practice when I'd catch the ball I'd go down to my knees because it was hurt so bad. I had no idea it was broke. (After) the Eclectic game I found out I had a broken thumb. The doctors said if I'd come to them sooner it would've healed pretty quickly, but they had to put two pins in. I played the rest of the year with two pins in my thumb. That was pretty painful."

"Solomon was tough," Autery added. "Dr. (Jimmy) Durden put a lot of casts on. We'd have to put pads all over it or they wouldn't let him play."

Trey Taylor was a senior lineman on the team and described the final sequence of plays in Clanton.

"It was 4th and 10 with 10 seconds. We had to pick up the first down," Taylor said. "John Wilbanks does a curl. Shane hits him right in the numbers. He goes out of bounds."

Then the Tigers had one final play which would go for a 29-yard score.

"We put Solomon as a wide receiver. Shane throws it and hits him stretched out into the end zone. You just feel the breath taken out of Chilton County."

Solomon Rivers with the fantastic finish in Clanton

Rivers elaborated on the final drive.

1984 Playbook

"It was :47 on the clock. That was my football number, so I felt good about that. I remember like it was yesterday," he said. "John Wilbanks made two outstanding catches. They didn't call my number the entire series. It was 7 seconds left and coach split me out wide. I remember streaking down the field. When I got past the defensive guy I looked up and saw the ball in the air. It was coming towards me but towards the middle of the field. I made a bee line to the ball and just caught it.

"A lot of people doubted that I caught the ball. I knew I caught it. What I didn't know was that I was in the endzone. A lot of people talk about that play. It comes up a lot. It was a good pass and good catch."

Pete Cottle wrote about the win in the "Dirty Digs" column of the Tallassee Tribune.

"Do you believe in miracles? Or fairy tales? Or happy ever after endings where the good guys win?

"If you were at Clanton Friday night, you do. A marvelously thrown spheroid from Shane Yankey to the magic man, Solomon Rivers, streaking into the end zone, covered by three men, on the last play of the game. 30 yard touchdown. Game over. We win.

"It was a game that will live in local folklore. As long as people go to Tallassee football games they will remember The Play, The Immaculate Reception."

A few weeks later, the Tigers faced Reeltown in the first ever meeting between the two schools. Tallassee won 36-21. As with many rivalries, the programs are intertwined with relationships. That was the case for THS assistant coach Frank Autery and his wife.

"Miss Jan graduated from Reeltown. That doesn't matter. It's just up the road. It's just another high school game," Autery said of the game that is to return this season after a 17-year absence from the gridiron. "I don't understand this, 'Battle of the Tallapoosa.' It's not Alabama/Auburn."

Chris Vaught and James Bush in '84

"Reeltown is the only game we filmed on 35 millimeter that was in color," Taylor said of the inaugural matchup played at O'Brien Stadium with the Tigers and Rebels. "That was kind of our coming out ball game. Everybody had such a good game. Solomon and Shane were being recruited.

Rivers remembered the stats for himself and fellow running back Earl Piner.

"Earl had a great game, 17 carries - 190 yards. I had 14 carries -170 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. A lot of people don't know it. That's the most carries I ever had in one game. In the wishbone everybody carried it. I really didn't carry it a whole lot of times, but pretty much when the game was on the line I was the go-to man."

Tallassee and Reeltown were tied 15-15 at halftime, but Tallassee pulled a way at the end.

"We ended the game on the 2-yard line," Taylor said. "We could've scored again. I was all for the fumblerooski. Let me run it in. The coach said don't score on them. Bruce Wilbanks said, 'Score! They're going to run it up next year.' The next year was 35-0 Reeltown."

Yankey said there was a debate between players before the final play.

"There was about to be a riot in the huddle. Everybody wanted to score and we were told to take a knee."

The 36-21 score was spraypainted on the train trestle near O'Daniel Bridge at Highway 229 after the THS win that season.

From 1984 (left to right): Shane Yankey, Mark Wilbanks, Chris Vaught, Bruce Wilbanks, Brad Mitchell, John Wilbanks

After a one and done in Tallassee's first playoff berth in '83, the '84 season would be different. Although the Tigers regular season record was just 5-5, they had been battle tested.

"We were way better than our record showed," Rivers said. "We lost a lot of close games. Toward the end of the year we showed what kind of talent we had. We were close knit. Once we got healthy, everything fell in place."

McCord talked about the team getting hot at the right time and the backing of the fans that came with it.

"We got on a roll going into the playoffs. Tallassee's always been a great supporter of their athletic programs. We had great followings whether we were on the road or at home, also winning or struggling. I remember particularly in the playoffs, it seemed like each week our fan base got larger. They traveled well."

The town got behind their team in what was coined the "I Believe" season. Storefronts were decorated in purple and gold. Another battle cry for Tiger fans was "Win for Willie" in honor of Willie Hayden, a student who would succumb to cancer.

Craig Vaught remembers cheering for the Tigers and his older brother Chris that season.

"The whole time the games were being played, the crowd would be standing up almost the entirety of the game chanting, 'We Believe.'"

Mid '80s practice

After a 41-14 beatdown of LaFayette at home in the first round, the Tigers faced Handley just as they did in the second week of the season at O'Brien Stadium.

Handley beat Tallassee 34-20 in week two. In round two, the tables turned with a 28-21 THS win.

"They gave us no respect whatsoever," said Autery. "I had ten games of their film. If the right guard wanted to blow his nose or the quarterback had to scratch his ear, I knew exactly what they were fixing to do.

"We called timeout one time and they had 4th and about a yard to go. I said, 'Watch them. They're going to run 47.' That's the power out of the wishbone off the left side. The quarterback's going to look left. It's a tendency that he had. The stud halfback is going to get the ball. We moved into a 4-4 defense. I don't know if it was (Chris) Vaught or (Brad) Mitchell, met the fellow in the backfield and took him two yards back. They didn't get nothing. That was it."

'84 Game Objectives

Autery said part of the reason for the deep playoff run was changing some tendencies that Tallassee had earlier in the season.

"We got together as coaches and changed a lot of stuff," he said.

Tallassee advanced to the quarterfinals with the Handley win and then hit the road for Fayette County. It was the day after Thanksgiving, Nov. 23. Boston College had beaten Miami earlier in the day, in the now famous "Hail Flutie" game.

"It was sub-freezing," said McCord. "I remember when we got there and started warming up you could already see the frost on the grass."

The game was not close. Tallassee won 28-7 setting up a semifinal trip to Brewton.

"That night Tallassee and T.R. Miller were playing for the state championship," assistant coach Frank Autery said. "Those were the two best teams in the state in 4A."

Steve McCord (left) and assistant coach Willie Daniel

McCord talked more about the matchup.

"We went into the game a little bit banged up. Our fullback Earl Piner didn't get to play. He had a thigh bruise the week before. That hurt us. We didn't have the inside game we normally had with him."

The homestanding Tigers beat Tallassee 17-7.

"If you look at the stats against T.R. Miller, statisically we killed them," Rivers said. "We really beat ourselves. We had four turnovers. One was on the two-yard line. We had a blocked punt inside the 20."

McCord also talked about what might have been.

"We had some unfortunate mistakes. We dropped a touchdown pass. We fumbled once down close that kept us from scoring. We just had some things go wrong at bad times.

"T.R. Miller had a good team that year and went on to win it. They beat Cherokee County for the championship. We felt like going in that whoever came out the winner would probably be the state champion. That was our state championship shot. We hated to see it end there because we were so close, but T.R. Miller was a very good team. It's just a shame that we didn't go on that week and try to wrap it up."

Ticket stub from playoff game with Tallassee vs. T.R. Miller in Brewton

Pete Cottle offered his commentary on the '84 Tigers' season finale in his "Dirty Digs" column of the Tallassee Tribune.

"On a foggy night in Brewton land the dream died.

"The impromptu gathering of several hundred Tiger fans on the field for the 'spirit line' before the game was chill-bumpy.

"The great mass of Tallassee fans who made the long trip almost to the Florida line was an awesome tribute to the team and to the fans themselves. We had almost as many there as they did.

"The incompetence of the referees and the timekeeper was shocking and insulting.

"I still believe! I believe that this group of boys got more out of themselves than any team I can remember.

"A last tribute to Solomon Rivers. You are the best I've seen, my friend. The very best."

As for being the best to ever put on a Tallassee uniform, Solomon's cousin Alfred, a former THS running back himself, thinks so.

"Solomon is the best football player I've seen play at Tallassee without a question," Alfred said. "(He) could do it all. Anyone who replaces their face mask two times a year and cracks their helmet is a beast. Unreal. He gave punishment like that on offense and defense."

What does Solomon think of those type of remarks?

"When people say I was one of the best, Tallassee had a lot of outstanding running backs," he said. "I think I was one of the best of my era. The only difference I see with me and a lot of other players is I probably led in a lot of other categories. I was the leading rusher. I think I was one of our best receivers. I was the leading tackler and did kickoff and punt returns. I did it all."

Taking the field for the first Tallassee/Reeltown game in 1984

Taylor talked about Rivers' versatility as an all-purpose talent.

"On defense he was our safety valve. If you got by Solomon you were going to score. You didn't get past him. As for an all-around athlete, (it's) Solomon Rivers. He never came out of the ball game. It shows the stamina and the man he was."

Rivers and Yankey both attended Jacksonville State on football scholarships.

"They called us the "Tallassee Flash." Thanks to Shane riding up there, he got me into country music."

Solomon Rivers goes airborne against T.R. Miller

After only one season, McCord opted to take the head coaching job at Marbury, his alma mater.

"Looking back, it was my mistake. I should've stayed."

McCord coached seven years at Marbury but got the opportunity to return to Tallassee in 1994 and did.

"The situation was similar, but we weren't quite as talented as in '84. In '96 we made it to the second round of the playoffs."

After '96, McCord would depart again - this time for Jemison.

"I had some regrets about leaving again, but it's just part of life. Maybe things would've been different with my career if I had stayed and finished up there."

Since the 1984 semifinal run, Tallassee has reached the fourth round again just once - in 1999. The opponent in the '99 semi was Jemison, coached by McCord. The Panthers ended Tallassee's perfect season 28-14 in front of a capacity crowd at J. E. "Hot" O'Brien Stadium.

McCord works with senior quarterback Shane Yankey in 1984

"We just had a good night. I thought it was our best night. People ask me if it was some kind of sweet revenge. It had nothing to do with that. It was just another game for me. I really respected the people in Tallassee and the players. It was quite an experience to have that many people there. It was a huge crowd. Everybody was extremely pumped. It was very noisy, the way it should be in high school football."

McCord had four more head coaching gigs before retiring in 2016.

One of McCord's assistants, Billy Beck, took over the program in 1985. His stint would last just two years.

The Tigers went 1-10 and 2-8 the next two seasons. The one-win team made the playoffs.

"1-9 and made the state playoffs," Autery quipped. "That's great ain't it?"

One of the quirks of area play is that with two teams advancing in three-team areas, sometimes the two representatives lack the resumes. In other cases, very good 8-2 teams have been left out of the post-season.

Tallassee's 1985 team beat Beauregard 31-18 to win the Class 4A/Area 5 runner-up spot. Dadeville won the area with a 4-7 record beating Tallassee 6-0 in the regular season finale. The Tigers lost at Lanett in the first round of the post-season 37-7.

"We got slaughtered," Autery added.

The Tigers went 2-8 in '86 with wins coming against rival Elmore County 24-15 and Beauregard again, 43-0.

Beck would be replaced by longtime assistant Woody Weaver the next year. Beck became Holtville's head coach in 1990. He spent four years there with more success than he could muster at THS reaching the playoffs three times. His 1993 went 9-3.

Billy Beck works with his team