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Tigers/Rebels rivarly renewal possible

By Michael Butler

It has been 15 years since Tallassee and Reeltown met on the gridiron. The football rivalry between the Tigers and Rebels was first played in 1984.

"I remember playing in the first Tallassee/Reeltown game," Trey Taylor recalled. "I remember how thick it was. There were gobs of people."

Tallassee won the first matchup 36-21. The series has been even steven, with eight wins a piece for each program in the 16 meetings.

Shane Yankey was a teammate of Taylor's on the Tallassee squad.

"It could be the very first sellout of the stadium," Yankey said. "That's a big stadium, but I think it's possible."

J. E. "Hot" O'Brien Stadium in Tallassee has a capacity of approximately 5,500.

1980s era game with the Tigers and Rebels

The series was played from 1984-91 and halted due to an off-field incident. It was renewed in 1996 and continued until 2003. Longtime Reeltown coach Jackie O'Neal was disappointed with Tallassee coach Phil Lindsey for reporting an inelgible player.

In 2006, O'Neal was asked if Tallassee vs. Reeltown was possible again.

"Not as long as they have the same athletic director and administration they have there, and as long as I'm still breathing," he said.

O'Neal retired from coaching after the 2015 season. Phil Lindsey coached his last high school game in 2006. The administration has since changed at both schools as well. Current RHS head coach Matt Johnson took over the program when O'Neal stepped down and was a player for him. Johnson suited up in the last batch of games played in the rivalry during the early 2000s.

"There has been conversation," Johnson said of the possibility to see the game on the schedule again. "Coach (Mike) Battles and I have talked multiple times about it. We've done some things together to try to break the ice. We did an OTA together in the summer. It went great, very competitive. That's exaclty how it should be.

"I don't know if the problem was ever on the field anyway. What's been on the field with us has been great in getting each other better. I think that's coming in the near future, I hope. There have been conversations."

Battles, who took over at THS in 2012, concurred with Johnson on the good working relationship between the neighboring schools.

"I think down the road it's going to happen," Battles noted. "There's no issue with me and Coach Johnson. There's several things that will have to take place. Next time around will discuss it. I know people want to see us play. I think our kids will enjoy playing, but there's a lot more to that to make sure that it's done right and things don't get out of hand. I know the principals have talked about it.

"I think it's coming sooner than later. Hopefully, we'll get out there and play a good football game. The loser will have 364 days to live with it."

The Rebels/Tigers pairing has come back in different sports. Last season, the two split a pair of softball games. The future of a football faceoff is up in the air for at least two more seasons. The schedules are in place through the 2019 season.

The seniment of community spills over from Tallassee to Reeltown and vice versa. This was evident last year when both fan bases rooted each other on at the East Alabama Youth Football League Championships in Alex City winning three titles between the two programs in the four age groups.

Ryan Montgomery was an assistant coach with the five- and six-year-old Reeltown team that won the freshmen division championship.

"We shared the visiting side," Montgomery said of Reeltown and Tallassee fans. "We cheered each other on until we were blue and purple in the face."

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