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Battles with seniors Caleb Segrest (left) and Christian McCary

Tigers have holes to fill

By Michael Butler

Last year's Tallassee football team reached the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 2017. The Tigers finished 7-5.

The 2023 season might be labeled a rebuilding year. 12 seniors have graduated including the quarterback - four-year starter Tyler Ellis. In addition, two more underclassmen in Lil' Josh Griffin and Cade Everson have transferred. Still, head coach Mike Battles, who begins his 12th season at THS, likes this year's group.

"Our expectations are always the same. I wouldn't want to be at a place that didn't have expectations," said Battles. "The core of our team, the offensive and defensive line, are all returners. A lot of them are seniors. They know they're going to have to carry the team."

Battles announced that the squad would have two quarterbacks filling the void left by Ellis.

"Mason Battles and Bryson Rigsby have been rotating all summer. They've played in a lot of varsity games. They've just never been the starting quarterback."

Minus Ellis and fellow graduate DJ Leonard, as well as Griffin and Everson, the majority of Tallassee's offensive production is gone. Battles is looking at a couple of seniors to step up.

"Christian McCary and Caleb Segrest will be in the backfield," Battles said. "They're both running backs slash linebackers. They're going to do a lot of things. Caleb's going to get the ball some, but he's more of that Mike Alstott lead blocker guy. Christian had an injury, so we're glad to have him out there full speed."

McCary is pumped about getting back on the field.

"I missed out. I had to watch the whole season," he said. "I'm feeling good. I felt good last wrestling season. I'm just working on getting stronger."

Tallassee will be replacing guys like Luke Burdette, Micah Cole and the record holder for tackles in a season in Caden Griffith. Plus, a completely new group of starters will be in the secondary.

"In the defensive backfield, we graduated four seniors," Battles noted. "They were four guys that had been playing back there for two or three years. While we have some talented defensive backs, they're all going to be young to the varsity game. They've got to get that game experience."

Overall, this will be year 27 for Battles as a head coach. When the season opens on Aug. 24 at Reeltown, he will be six wins away from the 200th of his career, placing him 14th among active coaches in the state.

"We've got a close-knit bunch. We've spent a lot of time talking about leadership. I made the seniors tell me a list of things they wanted - things like communication. I've learned to listen a little bit better. I know that shocks my wife. There are things like; always give great effort, be a great teammate, hold each other accountable. That's stuff that they're learning how to do and they're having fun. Their attitudes are in check."