Rivalry to be renewed
By Michael Butler
Tallassee and Reeltown have not played each other in a high school football game since 2003. That is about to change.
The venue is yet to be determined, but the Tigers and Rebels will officially kick off the 2020 football season with the matchup on a Thursday night.
"The majority of people are excited about it - a long time coming they say," Reeltown head football coach Matt Johnson said. "There's a few that have worries about it. Our job is to do what's best for the kids. For the kids in the two communities, there's no doubt this is what's best for them."
Tallassee and Reeltown faced off for the first time in 1984. The two played every year until 1991. An off-the-field incident led to the stoppage of the annual affair.
In 1996, the two programs renewed the series. Again, the game was played for the next eight seasons before halting again. This time, a dispute over an ineligible player led to the two ending contests.
Athletic director and Reeltown head football coach at the time, Jackie O'Neal spoke in 2006 of scheduling Tallasseee again, "Not as long as I'm still breathing," he said.
Johnson, who played on O'Neal's 2001 state championship team talked about how things have changed.
"When I got back to Reeltown as head coach, I brought that conversation up," Johnson said. "I haven't talked to Coach O'Neal.
"Other than the state championship, that was the biggest series that we had. To this day, it's still one of the biggest games that I like to talk about. You're going up against guys that you grew up with. It's got a different meaning. It was an awesome experience for me, so why not want to give that back to your players."
The question of if the game would come back was not a question to Tallassee head coach Mike Battles, it was when.
"It's going to happen," Battles said last year. "There's no issue with me and Coach Johnson. I know people want to see us play. I think our kids will enjoy playing. Hopefully, we'll get out there and play a good football game. The loser will have 364 days to live with it."
The contract will be for two years with an option to renew for the next two-year cycle. When reclassification occurs later this year, decisions will be made on the location for games in 2020 and 2021.
"We've had the conversation of splitting the gate," Johnson noted. "We haven't gone in depth of where that first matchup is going to be. It's whatever works out best. I'm open to either one."
The olive branch was passed when the Tigers and Rebels began doing 11-on-11 drills during summer workouts.
"It's been clean, fun and very competitive," added Johnson. "We spend all day together right in the heat of July. It's worked out great."
Though seldom, Tallassee and Reeltown resumed games in other sports despite the football drought. In addition to football next year, Johnson and Battles opted to pick those games back up beginning in September.
"We decided to play in everything because the contracts are a little bit looser," said Johnson. "We can fill in some spots with some home and aways in basketball, volleyball and baseball. Football is a little bit different because everything was set for this year, so we're going to begin in 2020."
Tallassee vs. Reeltown Results (Winning Team/Score)
1984: Tallassee 36-21
1985: Reeltown 35-0
1986: Reeltown 21-13
1987: Reeltown 20-6
1988: Tallassee 9-6
1989: Tallassee 24-7
1990: Tallassee 14-7
1991: Reeltown 28-0
1996: Tallassee 35-12
1997: Tallassee 10-6
1998: Tallassee 27-8
1999: Tallassee 37-20
2000: Reeltown 22-8
2001: Reeltown 41-6
2002: Reeltown 6-0
2003: Reeltown 13-6