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Coach Mike Battles ended his run at Tallassee after 12 years.
Photo by Kyle Thornton

Year in Sports

By Michael Butler

The year in athletics was headlined by the end of the Mike Battles era at Tallassee. Battles served as head football coach and athletic director for 12 years, a run that has only been bested by J.E. "Hot" O'Brien.

After a 1-9 campagin in 2023, the worst single-season mark in Battles' coaching career, the program and coach decided to part ways. At year's end, the process of selecting Battles' replacement was ongoing.

In December, numbers were released by the AHSAA regarding reclassification. A slight decrease in enrollment totals will reclassify Tallassee from 5A to 4A for the next two-year cycle.

With that came the assignment to Class 4A/Region 3. The makeup of that football region will be Booker T. Washington, Bullock County, Cleburne County, Handley, Munford, Saint James, Talladega and Tallassee. That leaves three non-region opponents for scheduling. Conversation of who those teams might be was a hot topic over the past year.

Former Tallassee Tiger Derrick Ansley received a big promotion in the NFL. Ansley was named defensive coordinator of the L.A. Chargers. Ansley came back to his hometown to host a camp for youth in the summer. Over 200 kids participated.

The Tallassee High School fishing team claimed a state championship. The anglers won the Smallmouth Division.

"We fished as hard as we could each tournament to get the points we needed to come out with the highest score at the end of the season," said Grant McCraney, who fishes with his brother Eli.

When asked, who is the top angler, Grant had a dipolmatic answer. "I can find the fish, but he can catch them."

Coach John Mask with state champ Land Bell

There were some individual state-title winners in Tallassee in 2023. Land Bell was the Class 5A 132-pound state wrestling champ. It was the 31st individual title in THS program history. Tallassee was seventh overall in the traditional-format state tournament. The team was the state runner-up in the duals format tourney.

"It's like a dream come true," said Bell. "I've thought of this moment since I was two-feet tall."

Bell has been wrestling since he was about two-feet tall. He started at the age of five and has won seven state titles in the youth ranks.

"It's a different atmosphere," he said comparing it to his championships at a younger age. "You've got college coaches watching you. Once you finally get to that big stage, it's way different."

Kayden Slay was a state champion. He also set a new state record. Slay was first in the Class 5A high jump. He committed to Auburn on an athletic scholarship.

Photo by Marvin Gentry

Slay jumped higher than any other Alabama high school athlete had jumped before. Seven feet.

"That's the highest I'd ever done to this day," said Slay.

Mask and Stewart

THS swimmer Macey Stewart, a University of Alabama commitment, picked up her eighth and ninth state championship medals at the state competition. Teammate Camden Mask was a runner-up. In addition, Mask took home a blue ribbon in recreational league swimming over the summer.

Tallassee soccer player Irvin Delfin was named all-state. Tiger softballer Brooke Royster was also an all-state pick. Both teams put up banner years. The soccer team posted a single-season record for wins in a 15-4 season. The softball squad won the area title but came up short in its quest to return to the state tournament falling in the Central Regional.

The THS baseball team broke a five-year drought from the post-season by reaching the Class 5A playoffs and winning its first round series at Valley. The JV team pulled off a rare baseball feat by going through the season without a defeat.

Tallassee's 13-year-old Babe Ruth all-stars were state champions in the tournament held in Tallassee. Tallassee's 10U team was vying for a World Series title in Mississippi but a controversial move cost them the opportunity for the trophy. Due to a stoppage in play for thunderstorm, the tournament ended prematurely.

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