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Photo by Kyle Thornton

Tigers advance with first round escape

By Gary Buchanan

It took some late game heroics on special teams and defense but Tallassee persevered over Hale County for a 29-26 first round victory Friday night.  The win puts the Tigers at 8-2 on the year.

It looked easy early as Casey Baynes capped off the Tigers’ first drive with a five yard touchdown run.  Later in the first half, Baynes found Jake Burton for a 23 yard touchdown strike.  Patrick Joekel put both extra points through the uprights to give Tallassee a 14-0 lead. 

Hale County finally broke through with an eight yard scoring run by Malik Ward.  The touchdown was the first of three for Ward.  Trent Cochran-Gill answered on Tallassee’s next play from scrimmage.  His 56 yard sprint to the end zone put the Tigers up 21-6 at the half.

The Wildcats came into the second half on fire, reeling off 20 unanswered points to take a 26-21 lead in the fourth quarter.  Ward was the workhorse for the offense, accumulating 176 yards on 31 carries.

With 2:22 left in the fourth quarter the Tallassee defense forced Hale County to punt.  That’s when Jamarcus Russell electrified the home crowd with a 60 yard return for the go ahead touchdown.  Baynes added the two point conversion to make the final score 29-26.

Cochran-Gill had a stellar night on both sides of the ball.  His 142 yards on nine carries made him the leading rusher for the Tigers.  He also caught a pass for 19 yards.  On defense, he wrapped up eight tackles and two interceptions.  It was his interception with 1:36 left in the game that sealed the victory.  His performance earned him Bright House Player of the Game honors.

“Hats off to Hale County,” said Coach Mike Battles.  “They took it to us in the second half.  All year long we’ve found ways to win.  We hung in there and found a way tonight with a heads up play by Jamarcus.  Trent had some big runs for us and those interceptions were huge.”

Tallassee will face St. James in second round action Friday night.  The all-time series is tied with both teams tallying three wins.  Kickoff is at 7:00 p.m. at Carlisle Field in Montgomery. 

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