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Tallie the Tiger displays the Battle Belt

Season opens this week

By Michael Butler

"Shall we play a game?" A computer uttered that line in the 1982 film "War Games." In 1982, Tallassee and Reeltown had been playing the game of football since the first half of the century, yet they had not played each other.

That all changed in 1984 with the first-ever "Battle of the Tallapoosa," minus the nifty nickname. Since the inaugural matchup, the game has been played 19 times with series of starts and stops.

The longest dryspell between games was from 2003-2020. The game returned in the year headlined by the coronavirus and has been played each year since.

Tallassee was last year's winner 37-13 and has won the previous two after the Rebels overtime win in '20.

The two head coaches who made the game happen again, have each noted the importance of the game but that it will not define the entire season.

"Tallassee is a huge game," said Reeltown's Matt Johnson, "but after it's over is when it really starts for us. The next one is a region game."

After last year's defeat in the opener, Johnson's squad reeled off 10 straight wins all the way to the quartefinals of the Class 2A playoffs.

Tallassee's Mike Battles reached the post-season too in 2022 falling in the second round of the Class 5A playoffs.

"It's good as the first game out of the gate and helps us get a few more people in the stands," said Battles of Reeltown. "I've been on both sides of it. So many people put so much emphasis on this game. We've still got nine more to play. You have to be careful how it affects your team winning or losing."

Tallassee varsity players at Friday's Tiger Night
Photos by Kyle Thornton

Tallassee has 53 players on its roster. Reeltown has 46. The Rebels return quarterback Jake Hornsby and running back Arthur Woods, as well as all-state honoree Tae Martin in the defensive backfield.

"Jake is a leader of men," said Johnson. "Arthur is very explosive. Tae has really come on the scene. He's one of the best overall DBs that I've ever coached."

Battles talked about the nucleus of his team - the offensive line.

"I think they'll prove to be one of the better lines we've had. You've got guys like guys like Braden Arnold, Ja'Twon Griffin, Ben Carwile. They really enjoy blocking. They're the leaders of the team. We're going to be a really physical football team. That's going to be our mindset."

Battles and Johnson are seasoned coaches. This is year 27 overall for Battles as a head coach and his 12th at Tallassee. Johnson enters year eight with Reeltown.

"It's flown by," said Johnson of his first head coaching gig. "I can't believe it's August."

August temperatures are always hot for early-season games, but for this year's opener it will be excessive. The high temp for gameday on Aug. 24 is forecast for 101.

"The state has mandates that we follow," Johnson said of the AHSAA guidelines for such conditions. "If the heat index gets above 103, you've got to start shedding pads."

Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Thursday.

"We had 117 (heat index) the first day we went on the field," Battles added. "Our kids have handled it well. They're acclimated to it."

WTLS/Score 94.7/Hit 106.9 will have the live broadcast with an airtime of 6 p.m. Video streaming will be on Tallassee Times TV.

Series Notes

*THS leads series 10-9 overall (2-1 since rivalry renewal). First meeting won by Tallassee in 1984 (36-21).  Tigers have won last two. Longest streak is five by Reeltown (Four in a row from 2000-03 and win in 2020 after 17-year stoppage in series).

Mike Battles (12th year at Tallassee, 77-45 record; 27th overall, 194-100)
Matt Johnson (8th season, 55-27) *1-2 vs. Mike Battles