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100 years of THS football

By Michael Butler

It is time to begin the second century of Tallassee football. 100 years are in the books. According to the Alabama High School Football Historical Society (AHSFHS), Tallassee won its first game on Oct. 14, 1921 vs. Barnes by a score of 14-7.

Now - ten decades later - the game is still around but quite different.

The heyday of THS football was in the 1940s. John Edward "Hot" O'Brien led the Tigers to a 57-game unbeaten streak from 1941-47.

Tallassee's undefeated streak began with a 20-0 victory at Eufaula on Oct. 10, 1941 and ended with a 21-7 loss to Sidney Lanier on Nov. 14, 1947. The largest margin of victory during the streak came on Nov. 17, 1944 against Lineville. Tallassee beat the Aggies 72-7.

O'Brien had an eye for talent. For Davis Melton it applied first-hand.

"I fondly remember before starting out for football," Melton said, "I was on the sideline while the teams were scrimmaging. They threw a ball over there and I retrieved it. Coach O'Brien said, 'He'll be a good one someday.'"

Davis Melton presenting Coach O'Brien a souvenir football at "O’Brien Appreciation Day" in 1969. Courtesy of W.C Bryant, from the book “Hot and His Boys.”

Melton was one of O'Brien's brightest stars during the "streak." His playing career took off from the very first game in which he saw action. On his first play as a freshman in 1943, he caught a pass and took it in for a touchdown.

"I played in 31 games of the 57 without a loss," said the All-State and All-Southern star who went on to play at Southern Mississippi.

O'Brien compiled a 128-39-7 record in 19 seasons winning 79 percent of his games in tenures at Falkville, Tallapoosa County (Dadeville) and Tallassee. He served as principal at THS for three years after his coaching duties. An avid golfer during his golden years, he died on Jan. 18, 1977. O'Brien was inducted into the Alabama High School Athletic Association Hall of Fame in 1991.

The AHSFHS lists the Tigers' all-time record as 545-413-24 (57%). Although Tallassee has no state championships, "mythical" titles were awarded in 1954 and 1961 by The Birmingham News. The '54 went 9-1 under Charles Hattaway. The '61 team was 7-1-1 under Jackie Davis.

"Coach O'Brien said this was the best Tallassee team since the winning streak," Howard Earl Stalnaker said of the '54 team that won the Border Conference Championship.

Stalnaker actually felt that the '54 might have been the best team THS had ever fielded. Seven players were all-state picks. And, seven went on to play college football, including Danny Wilbanks, who would play at Alabama. 


"John North had built the team the year before. We had some great players on that team," Wilbanks said in an interview on WTLS Radio.

Coach North was the first to follow O'Brien. The Gillam, La. native played college ball at Vanderbilt. .

As a college freshman at the age of 17, North enlisted in the Marines and fought in World War II. He was awarded a Purple Heart after being shot multiple times in both calves during combat. His parents were told that he had died.

Doctors told North that he would never walk again. While in the hospital, he walked around on his hands.

North defied the skeptics and was drafted by the Washington Redskins in the sixth round of the 1945 NFL Draft. He played with the Baltimore Colts from 1948-50.

After his only season in Tallassee, North left for a college position at Tennessee Tech. He would go on to coach at Kentucky and LSU, as well as in the NFL at Detroit and New Orleans. North was the head coach of the Saints from 1973-75. He spent his final years in coaching as an assistant with the Atlanta Falcons before retiring after a season with the New Orleans Breakers of the USFL.

Following North's one season at Tallassee, Hattaway would have just one season himself - 1954.

"We had some big players for those days," Wilbanks added.

200 pounds was "big" in 1954. Wilbanks was a 200-pound fullback. J.W. Woodall was a 200-pound guard. Tommy Higgins weighed in at 205 as a tackle. All three played in the AHSAA All-Star Game.

Woodall and Higgins went on to Auburn. J.B. Ashurst went to Troy. Jerry Golden went to Clemson. Ed Christian and Lafayette Peters joined Wilbanks at Alabama.

James Edwin Newby took over in 1955 and coached two seasons going 8-12 which prompted the return of O'Brien. He went 4-5 in 1957 and 4-5 in '58.

Jackie Davis, an O'Brien disciple, had a stint of four seasons from 1959-62.


Davis was a 1946 graduate at Tallassee. He went on to play football at Troy after two years in the Army.

His first coaching job was at Elmore County High School. His team's 7-0 win over Verbena in 1955 broke the Red Devils' 50-game win streak securing that his alma mater's and O'Brien's 57-game record not be surpassed.

After six years in Eclectic, Davis joined O'Brien as an assistant in 1957. He took over as head coach in 1959 going 7-3. Also in '59, Davis' track team was the state champion.

The next year he was 7-2-1. In 1961, Tallassee went 7-1-1 and won the Border Conference Championship. His last season at THS was 4-6 in '62.

During Davis' years at Tallassee as head coach, the Tigers were ranked No. 6 in the Montgomery Advertiser poll at season's end in 1959. They were No. 5 in the Alabama Sports Writers Association (ASWA) poll of 1960 and No. 8 in the Birmingham Post Herald rankings. The '61 team was No. 5 in the ASWA Rankings and No 9 in the Post Herald's, in addition to being listed as the Class A state champs by the Birmingham News.

Coach Davis' 60 Tigers

The 60s were a tough stretch after Davis. Ken "Tank" Mitchell brought some success in the latter half of the decade with a 7-3 record in 1968 and a 7-2-1 mark in '69. Mitchell, a product of Coach Paul "Bear" Bryant at Alabama, left Tallassee in 1970 and to coach in the college ranks at Florida State and later Troy State.

"We had a great bunch of kids. They worked really hard," Mitchell said. "It was a good time in our life. My daughter was born while we were in Tallassee. The people in Tallassee have a love for football. Win, lose or draw, they were always with you."

Duane Webster, another O'Brien protege, took the THS head coaching gig in 1970.

Webster (far left) in 1970 with Melvin Barker, Coach Paul Taylor, Jimmy Brodzinski, Coach Lamar Godwin

"I had no idea if Coach (O'Brien) had anything to do with it or not," Webster said. "Mr. (Bennie) Little and (Earl) McArthur came to see me. I took the job on the second meeting. Money was a big part of it. I had been successful at Reeltown and I thought I deserved more money than I was getting. I wasn't getting but $500 a month to coach and coached football and basketball. At Tallassee I got a good raise and a place to live for $40 per month in the old teacherage."

Webster had already built a name for himself at Reeltown where he coached 14 seasons after graduating from Auburn. The Tallassee alum was 98-33-8 in his first stint at Reeltown. The Rebels were 9-0-1 in 1969.

Webster had allegiances to both schools prior to getting into the coaching profession.

"I was in school at Tallassee. Mr. Little was my shop teacher in seventh grade," Webster remembered. His younger siblings Carolyn and Charles were also enrolled at Tallassee.

It was during that seventh grade year in Novmember of 1943 when Webster's entire world would turn upside down.

"My brother Charles and sister Carolyn had moved with my mother down on the (Lower) River Road. She had left my father. We lived down there about two weeks. Police came to the school. My father had killed my mother and he killed himself.

"We had three older sisters. They each took one of us. I went with Thelma to Reeltown. I went most of the 7th grade though 11th grade to Reeltown. I was having a hard time because me and my brother-in-law couldn't get along too well. I had a lot of friends who took me in from time to time. I lived with different families. In the 12th grade, it was with Emory Daniel and his wife Mary Francis in Carrville.

"Somebody made arrangements for me to work in the mill from 6-10 in the morning. I was making 80 cents an hour. I'd get to school about 11. I played football and basketball. I never played football before. I was a pretty good basketball player. I made all-county at Reeltown the year before. I made all-district, me and Jackie Williams, at Tallassee my senior year."

Coach O'Brien was the basketball coach in addition to football.

Webster, who turned 90 in June, with his wife Vera and daughter Venita after Highway 120 was named in his honor near Reeltown School. Photo by Suzannah Solomon Wilson.

"He was a good person. He might have been a better person than coach. It all goes together. He took me under his wing because I was a country boy coming to the city. A few people on the football team didn't like country boys. I had to go through a little harrassment, nothing major. There were days that I wished I wasn't out there. I thought I knew what football was about until I actually got out there."

Webster started coaching at Reeltown in 1956.

"Reeltown's athletic program was terrible," he said. "They had won one and tied one the past three years before I went there. They kept begging me to take the job. I just didn't feel comfortable. They finally convinced me, so I went to work.

"I used what I learned from coach Hot," Webster said of O'Brien in W. C. Bryant's book, "Hot and His Boys." "I also consulted with him on a regular basis. He was my hero."

Webster's time at Reeltown bookends a Hall of Fame career that included four seasons at Tallassee.

"(Tallassee) had good teams the years before I took over," he recalled "Most of the (1969) team graduated. We went 4-6 the first year which wasn't too bad considering the schedule we had to play. The next two years were awful - one win each. We won four again my last year. Coach O'Brien spoiled everybody."

From 1970-73, Webster's THS teams went 10-29-1. The wins might have been less than expected but Webster's influence was strong with his players at Tallassee including Tony Mann.

"I was 15 going up against some seniors on the offensive line and of course I was intimidated," Mann said. "Coach Webster realized that and knew how to talk to me and how to handle the situation. That stuck with me throughout my life. His foot in my rear helped too, but he always had time to talk if you had a problem and would listen. That went on even after he went back to Reeltown."

1970 cheerleaders (seated, left to right): Emily Thompson, Julie Patterson, Leigh Ledbetter. (Standing, left to right): Brenda Mann, Francis Roton, Susan Chambliss.

Webster went 218-93-9 in 30 years of coaching at Reeltown and Tallassee. His 1987 Reeltown team won the 2A State Championship. In '82, Reeltown's football facility became Nix-Webster Stadium. He was named the 2A Coach of the Year in 1985 and inducted to the AHSAA Hall of Fame in 1994.

Ronnie Baynes followed Webster with an eight-season run from 1974-81. Baynes was a multi-sport athlete as a collegian at Auburn.

At Tallassee, his best football team was the 1976 squad that went 8-2.

His 1980 team is responsible for the lowest point total by a winning Tallassee team - 2 points. It was the final game of the season vs. Stanhope Elmore.

Dan Wilbanks was the hero in the contest recording the safety in the Tigers' 2-0 win. It came in the third quarter.

"I beat my block, grabbed (the quarterback) and threw him down," Wilbanks said. "We were all excited, (but) it was still nerve wracking because we had to hold them for the fourth quarter. It was a great win and one that people ask me about an awful lot. I've even been accused of falling down in the endzone and the guy tripping over the top of me."

Talla-Hi News clipping of Baynes congratulating Dan Wilbanks after the Tigers' 2-0 win over Stanhope.

Baynes also commented on the special play.

"Dan was in a three technique on the right side. Randy (Stokes) was three technique on the other side. (Dan) ran that technique about as well as you could. He hit the guy and the guy didn't hook him. The play goes outside of him and he comes off that block and makes a heck of a play in the endzone. It was big time."

Stokes, who played in the AHSAA All-Star Game after his senior season prior to going to Auburn to play collegiately, talked about the defensive masterpiece.

"It ranks as probably my top three most special games," Stokes said. "We had a better team than our record indicated, so we had a chip on our shoulder. It should've been worse than 2-0. Dan Wilbanks made a great play and we'll never forget it."

Baynes biggest success came as the Tallassee High School baseball coach. He won five state titles from 1986-91.

1976 Tigers (left to right): Mike Daniels, Jimmy Haynes, Craig Goss

"When it came time for me to step aside in football, I didn't want to make the same mistake I had made when I left Selma and got out of coaching," Baynes said. "I asked to keep baseball. I was officiating football (and) starting to work the big SEC games. My weekends were doing the game Friday night and driving all night Friday to some place or get up early Saturday morning. There were a lot of Friday nights I'd get maybe two or three hours sleep.

"Having transitioned from no football to just baseball was the little bit of bump we needed to go from being a good baseball program to a great baseball program. A sportswriter called it "Bootcamp Baseball." We played tough and played hard. It was my football background in baseball. The kids had a tough, mental attitude."

Baynes' Tallasssee baseball record from 1975-92 was 249-103.

"One of the really good things we had in Tallassee was the opportunity to be involved in all levels," Baynes said. "It's so important to get everybody working on the same page. I got involved. I had kids involved. I was down there coaching. It was not unusual for me to coach high school practice, Little League and Babe Ruth."

Tallassee's first baseball championship under Baynes in 1986

During his career, Baynes handled the balancing act of school work, coaching, football officiating and family.

"When I came to Tallassee I explained that I was starting an officiating career. They asked if it was going to interfere with anything I did. I said not at all. They said go for it. It's one of the reasons why I came there."

Baynes officiating career began in 1971 at the high school level. In 1974 he moved to the Southeastern Conference. In 1987 he got his shot with the NFL.

Like Webster and O'Brien, Baynes is another Hall-of-Famer. He was inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in 2013 and the Alabama Sports Officials Hall of Fame in 2019.

Tallassee's first playoff appearance came in 1983 under Coach Marc Rice, who followed Baynes.

Tallassee's beat Stanhope Elmore 15-14 to clinch the post-season berth. The game might be better known as the "Jo Jo get 'em off the goalposts game."

Solomon Rivers, the 1984 team MVP, pictured with Coach Frank Autery

"That game was epic," said Rhett Dennis, who was a senior during the '83 season. "I don't remember much. I've taken too many hits to the head."

The "Jo Jo" game came into being through the words of radio analyst Timm Timmerman, who called the game with Mitchell on WTLS. After the Tigers' victory, Timmerman was concerned that students would tear down the goalposts and yelled to Jo Jo Ledbetter to "get 'em off."

"That's one statement that will live with me forever. I guess if you've got to be famous for anything, you might as well be famous for that," Timmerman said.

John Goodman caught a late touchdown pass from Shane Yankey and snagged the two-point conversion preserving the win against the Mustangs.

"It was magical," Goodman said. "(It) was one of the biggest crowds I've ever seen at our stadium. They're ten deep around the track. They're three deep around the wall."

Goodman came back to his alma mater to coach, and won state championships in baseball (1995, 1998), like his predecessor Ronnie Baynes.

Rice left after one season and was replaced by Steve McCord. McCord's 1984 team made what is still Tallassee's deepest playoff run, only matched by the 1999 team, to the semifinals. Ironically, McCord was coaching the opponent Jemsion for Tallassee's '99 appearance in the semis. Tallassee was on the losing end of both games.

"People ask me if it was some kind of sweet revenge," McCord said of the matchup in 1999. "It had nothing to do with that. It was just another game for me. I really respected the people in Tallassee and the players."

The '84 team's run under McCord was something special.

"I knew Tallassee had some good talent returning," said McCord. "We had some good skill players in Shane Yankey, Solomon Rivers, Earl Piner and Chris Vaught. We had some lineman that had played some with a little bit of size. I knew there was potential.

"Shane was a great quarterback probably one of the best I've ever coached. He was very smart and knew the offense better than I did. He knew when we had a good play called and could recognize when we didn't. He had a good arm and managed the game well."

One of the Tigers' most dramatic wins in its football history came in the '84 season with a 4th down touchdown completion from Yankey to Rivers of 29 yards on the final play at Chilton County for 21-19 victory.

Solomon Rivers with the fantastic finish in Clanton

"It was :47 on the clock. That was my football number, so I felt good about that," Rivers said of the final drive in Clanton. "John Wilbanks made two outstanding catches. They didn't call my number the entire series. It was 7 seconds left and coach split me out wide. I remember streaking down the field. When I got past the defensive guy I looked up and saw the ball in the air. It was coming towards me but towards the middle of the field. I made a bee line to the ball and just caught it.

1984 Playbook

"A lot of people doubted that I caught the ball. I knew I caught it. What I didn't know was that I was in the endzone. A lot of people talk about that play. It comes up a lot. It was a good pass and good catch."

Pete Cottle wrote about the win in the "Dirty Digs" column of the Tallassee Tribune.

"Do you believe in miracles? Or fairy tales? Or happy ever after endings where the good guys win?

"If you were at Clanton Friday night, you do. A marvelously thrown spheroid from Shane Yankey to the magic man, Solomon Rivers, streaking into the end zone, covered by three men, on the last play of the game.

"It was a game that will live in local folklore. As long as people go to Tallassee football games they will remember The Play, The Immaculate Reception."

A few weeks later, the Tigers faced Reeltown in the first ever meeting between the two schools. Tallassee won 36-21. Remnants of the spraypaint conveying that score are still partially visible on the train trestle near O'Daniel Bridge at Highway 229.

Tallassee reached the fourth round of the playoffs after a 5-5 regular season falling to T.R. Miller in Brewton 17-7.

"We got on a roll going into the playoffs," McCord said. "Tallassee's always been a great supporter of their athletic programs. We had great followings whether we were on the road or at home, also winning or struggling. I remember particularly in the playoffs, it seemed like each week our fan base got larger. They traveled well."

McCord works with senior quarterback Shane Yankey in 1984

Rivers and Yankey both attended Jacksonville State on football scholarships.

"They called us the "Tallassee Flash." Thanks to Shane riding up there, he got me into country music."

McCord departed after '84 and was succeeded by assistant Billy Beck. Beck went 3-17 in 1985 and '86. That opened the door for Woody Weaver, a longtime assistant with the THS athletic program.

Weaver with Duane Webster in 1987. Reeltown won 20-6. It was the only head-to-head meeting between the two coaches. Webster hired Weaver at Tallassee in 1972.

"They had asked me a couple of times if I was interested," Weaver said of opportunities to head the high school program in football. "At that time other people knew more about football than I did. Mr. (Russell) Stokes and (Glen) Baggett got after me so I said I'd try it."

Over the next seven seasons Weaver would go 45-32 bringing stability and success to the program. His best year was in 1991 when Tallassee made its deepest run in the playoffs since 1984 with a trip to the quarterfinals going 11-2. The 11-win season in '91 was the most ever at the time by a Tallassee team.

Coach Carl Stewart was a new hire to Weaver's first varsity coaching staff.

"Woody said if you'll come and do your job everyday, you'll get a fair shake," Stewart said. "I just believed in him."

Stewart and Weaver

Stewart and Weaver are still best friends to this day.

Weaver was 20-4 in 1990 and '91.

"I had those kids in junior high. They had won and had a little bit of confidence," Weaver said. "That's one of the reasons I coached. These kids wanted an opportunity to win."

Keith Tuck played with Weaver in junior high.

"Coach Weaver would give me a certain type of look which he and I had from junior high school that I knew (meant) it was time for me to deliver."

Weaver's first trip to the post-season came in his second year as head coach at Tallassee. The Tigers went 7-3 after a 5-5 campaign in Weaver's first year at the helm.

On Friday, Nov. 4 of the 1988 season THS traveled to Sylacauga to meet B.B. Comer in a first round playoff game only to have to turn around and come home due to stormy weather. The day's delay was worth the wait.

B.B. Comer advanced with a 47-45 victory, but the game went into five overtime periods. To this day, it is the only game that Tallassee has lost when scoring 40 or more points. They are 40-1 in such games.

"What probably hurt us most is Jeri Goodman got hurt. He was our kicker," Weaver said. "A couple of times we could've kicked and had an opportunity to win."

Tuck was the workhorse in the marathon game.

Players take a break in 1987

"I remember going over and having to come back over. That was deflating. Playing on a Saturday was new to me," Tuck said. "I scored five touchdowns. I was well conditioned but tired. It was a hard-hitting game. We knew we were the better team. Clearly in my mind we won that game. I think we were cheated. One of the plays they said we had too many on the line. Before that play, the coaches told the referees what we were going to do. One of the guys still called a penalty. We actually scored on that play. That would've put it out of reach. The game would have been over."

The two-point play that would have extended the game into a sixth overtime came up short with the ball in Tuck's hands.

"They cheated over and stacked the line where they knew the ball was coming to me. If I could've done something else, I would've. As soon as that ball was snapped, they knew exactly where it was going. I probably got two yards. Going into five overtimes, we had chances to put the game away. We left everything out on the field."

It would be Tuck's final game in high school. He went on to play at Alabama State.

Stewart described how grueling the extended game was.

"Mark Griggs played defensive end. It was hard-nosed football, three yards and a cloud of dust. They ran the power, block down and kick out. After the game, I remember the managers helping him get his shoulder pads off. His chest and shoulders were just blue. He was battered, but he stuck in there every play."

After the heartbreaking defeat Stewart remembered a message Weaver had for the team.

"I remember what Woody said. He told the kids that wasn't going to be the worst thing that happened to them. Recently, one of our former players lost a child. We went to visit him. The kid quoted that verbatim. He said, 'Coach, you were right. Football is a game.' I thought that was the best tribute anybody could pay to a coach."

1991-92 Cheerleaders

From 1988-91, Weaver's teams were ranked in the Alabama Sports Writers Association poll each season. In '88, Tallassee cracked the poll for the first time in five seasons appearing at No. 10 in week two. In '89, the Tigers climbed as high as No. 4. In '90, the team's highest ranking was No. 6. In '91 Tallassee's peak position was No. 4.

Celebrating the win over Lanett in '87

The four successive seasons in the rankings is the only such streak for Tallassee in the poll era.

Weaver's squad knocked off No. 1 Lanett in 1987 14-9 in Tallassee. The Panthers had won 12 straight in the series and 22 of the past 23.

"We called timeout," Stewart remembered. "Jonathan Johns was our safety. I said on film they like to run the option down on the goal line. Sure enough when Lanett ran the option they put it out there and hand the ball to Jonathan Johns. He took the ball into the end zone and we were able to win."

Lanett reached the semifinals that season falling to Elmore County 6-0. The Panthers from Eclectic went on to win the 4A state championship.

Elmore County's Terry Burt and Weaver faced off eight times from 1987-94. Weaver was 6-2 in the rivalry. He was 3-2 vs. Reeltown during his Tallassee tenure.

Weaver and Reeltown's Duane Webster met in the only meeting between the pair as head coaches in Webster's last season in 1987. Reeltown won 20-6 in Reeltown.

"It's no different than any other game. You're trying to win," Weaver said of facing his friend Webster. "They had better athletes than we had. They had a real good football team. It might have been the best team we played all year."

The Rebels went a perfect 15-0 and claimed the 2A state crown.

"We played a lot of tough teams that year," Weaver said of his first season.

Weaver and O'Neal after Tallassee's 9-6 victory in 1988

The following season in '88, Tallassee beat the defending state champion and top-ranked Rebels 9-6 at O'Brien Stadium.

The win came a week after the Tigers fell to Lanett 7-0, a season removed from Tallassee's win over the No. 1 Panthers in '87.

Starting running back Keith Tuck was injured in the Lanett loss.

"I was getting tackled and a guy came up and horse collared me. He pulled me back over my right ankle. I sprained that thing pretty bad," Tuck said. "We had Reeltown coming up. You're talking about the biggeset rival in the state.

"That Saturday morning I was at the gym icing to get ready. Coach Stewart (said), 'In order for you to be ready to play in the Reeltown game, I'm going to have to come and pick you up every morning at 5 before school.' I told him that I would be ready. I was at the front door waiting on him every morning."

Tuck's week-long recovery regimen enabled him to play a major role in one of Tallassee's biggest victories.

Tuck scored Tallassee's only touchdown in the win with an 83-yard run. Scott Hewitt's kicked a 19-yard field goal as well.

"When coach Weaver called that 28 sweep, I saw a hole and hit (it). I knew it was over," said Tuck. "I saw two guys. One was Larry Foye. I knew he didn't have a chance of catching me. The fastest guy was actually my first cousin, Kenyattie Silcott. He had an angle. He and I were closely matched in speed, but when you match speed with energy, (a) will to win and to die for your cause then that was definitely the position I was in that game. There was no catching me."

Keith Tuck and Mike Segrest were game captains for Tallassee in the Reeltown game of 1988

The Tiger Tracks Yearbook had an article on the THS win.

"The Tallassee Tigers did exactly what they had to do Friday night to beat the Reeltown Rebels. Full of desire, the Tigers played the best game they could."

The victory came before 3,000 fans according to the Tiger Tracks report. Tallassee's win ended Reeltown's 20-game win streak. The streak is still the longest for Reeltown to this day.

"I knew nobody was going to leak that I was hurt," Tuck said. "We were all I hyped. I knew I had a job to do. I knew they were going to depend on me, especially with them coming off of a state championship."

The win in '88 led to a new tradition for players after wins on Saturday mornings at the East Tallassee Cafe.

"We met wearing our jerseys," Tuck said. "We ate breakfast."

Weaver chose to retire after a 1-9 season in '93, but he would return to coach the purple and gold again. After Steve McCord's return to Tallassee in 1994 and decision to leave again in 1996, the Tigers needed a replacement. Stewart called on Weaver when things fell through when Clay County's Danny Horn turned down Tallassee's offer.

"I called and said, 'Coach, what do you think about one more time?' He said, 'I don't know any of these kids.' He said, 'No.' I called him that morning again. He said, 'If you'll do it, I'll do it.'"

Weaver and Stewart teamed up for one final season going 4-7 in 1997.

Mark Rose, who played college football for Pat Dye, assumed the head coaching duties in 1998. His 1999 team recorded the most wins in a single season by a Tallassee team (13).

Tiger Tracks yearbook photo

"Carl Stewart is one of my favorite guys that I've ever worked with. He has the same kind of heart for kids that I have," Rose said of the THS principal at the time of his hiring. "Coach Stewart called Joe Whitt at Auburn and asked him about Mark Rose. Coach Whitt told him, 'You better hire him.' I think Joe Whitt helped me get in with his relationship with Coach Stewart."

Derrick Ansley being presented a "Key to the City" by Tallassee Mayor Johnny Hammock on Derrick Ansley Day in 2010

Derrick Ansley was a senior for the Tigers during the '99 season. He was a first-team all-state selection and played in the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game. Ansley went on to play collegiately at Troy. He has coached at Huntingdon, Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee and in the NFL with the Raiders and Chargers.

"Coach Rose set the foundation of what kind of football team we wanted to have," Ansley said. "The first was always toughness. He instilled that menatality. We bought into it and had really good leadership. That carried over to '99. We felt like we had a chance to be pretty good."

Rose remembers a visit at practice prior to the '99 season opener from former O'Brien era star Davis Melton.

"He came out to practice and we were doing pursuit drills. The effort was absolutely unbelievable. I remember coach Melton looking at me and smiling, 'Coach, we might have something.' I said, 'Well, what you don't know is we're four hours and 45 minutes into practice.' He smiled wide and said, 'Yeah, we might have a chance.'

"I think we had 28 guys. A lot of guys played both ways. That's a different mindset. When a guys plays tailback and corner like Justin Williams. Ron Griffin plays wingback with Chris Thompson to linebacker and defensive end. Brad Peters played fullback and linebacker. Jared Blair played tight end and linebacker. Our guys never came off the field.

"You don't need a lot of guys if you've got the right formula, chemistry, leadership and personality. All of those things gelled in '99. We had a good group of guys, not a lot of guys but the right guys."

Ansley with coach Mark Rose.
Tallassee Tribune photo by Timm Timmerman.

Ansley was among those warriors as a quarterback and defensive back.

"I contribute the defensive back play to coach Sylvester Atkins, the defensive coordinator. When he came in with coach Rose he said, 'If you want to go to college, you better play defensive back.' That kind of stuck with me. I was a decent quarterback. We had a really good running game and did a lot of play action. I had the luxury of seeing what good quarterback play looked like at Tallassee growing up watching Jonathan Rivers and Brent Timmerman. I kind of looked up to those guys.

"Flipping over to play defensive back, that's something I did growing up in the neighborhood - reading the quarterback's eyes and thinking like a quarterback.

Ansley intercepted 12 balls as a senior. He had 23 picks in his career in the THS secondary. In college he followed suit with 19 career interceptions.

"It really wasn't my doing," he said. "In high school, nobody could run the ball on us with Dan Williams and Eric Cagle inside, Chris Thompson and (Brandon) "Bouke" Peters on the edge and Jared Blair and Brad Peters inside. Nobody could run the ball, so they had to throw the ball to try and move the ball. That played into my hands. We had Justin Williams at the corner and Cody Goodman at the other corner. I just kind or roamed around and read the quarterback. If you can stop the run, you can make the quarterback play left-handed."

'99 Tigers

Longtime assistant coach Leslie Waters said in his 25 years of coaching that the 1999 squad epitomized toughness like none other.

"The '99 team was the toughest. The toughest group I've ever been around," said Waters. "It started with the kids. We'd get to the gym and Derrick Ansley aleady had them up running sprints.

Tallassee outscored its opponents 454-176 in '99 averaging 32.4 points per game and allowing 12.6.

After beating Dadeville 21-16 to complete a perfect 10-0 regular season, Tallassee reached No. 3 in ASWA Class 4A poll - the highest ranking since Jackie Davis' Tigers peaked at No. 3 in 1960.

The semifinal win at St. Paul's in Mobile was one for the ages, raising the Tallassee win total to 13 wins.

"That was a heavyweight fight. It was a real atmosphere," Ansley said. "St. Paul's (has) a lot of tradition. A lot of great players come out of there; Mark Barron, A.J. McCarron. They're well-coached and tough. They tried to intimidate us before the game. They were chanting and we were warming up. That intimidation factor was real."

St. Paul's missed a long field goal attempt as time expired and Tallassee won 21-19 setting up the Tigers' second semifinal appearance of its post-season history. This time it would be at J. E. "Hot" O'Brien Stadium.

Sports writer Timm Timmerman wrote about the time leading up to the game in the Tallassee Tribune.

"The day after Thanksgiving was a festive day in Tallassee," Timmerman wrote. "The first tailgater arrived at 8:30. Tallassee coaches arrived at noon. By 2 p.m. the lot was filling fast. Beginning at 3:50, a steady stream of fans filed into the fabled O'Brien Stadium. By 7 p.m., there were spectators in every conceivable location, even on some structures outside."

It is estimated that approximately 5,000 fans attended the game. The population of Tallassee is about the same. It was likely the highest attendance ever at any event in the city's history.

"Coming out of the locker room and not really being able to breathe because there were so many people in one small location," Ansley said. "The atmosphere of having Reeltown, Elmore County and Dadeville people there to support you. It was surreal. To me in my career playing or coaching, it's top two or three that I've ever been a part of."

Rose also spoke of the setting that night.

"There wasn't an empty seat. They were lined up down the streets. What an atmosphere for those kids. They earned and they deserved it. It was a great experience."

Steve McCord was on the other sideline for this semifinal.

"Jemison had been down a while and had never experienced anything like that," McCord said. "That year, kind of like the '84 year, we got on a roll at the right time. Coach Rose had done a great job, had a super running back in (Justin) Williams and a really fine team."

McCord's new team beat his old one 28-14.

Along with Ansley, Justin Williams and Ryan Johnson were all-state picks. Williams was named 4A Back of the Year and made the ASWA Super 12 team. He also broke the career rushing record at Tallassee.

After just two seasons in Tallassee, Rose received an offer from North Jackson.

"I had a friend approach me who was actually at Troy. He asked me about that job up there. They basically put an offer that I could not refuse."

Rose assistant Jared Jones, a former THS player, became the next head coach in 2000. He went 10-11 in two seasons.

Following the special 13-1 season from a year prior was a tough act to follow, Jones admitted.

"It was a good crew coming back, but we had lost a lot of talent too."

One of the returning players for Jones was Eric Cagle, who was a starter in ninth grade.

"When coach Rose came in I was a freshman," Cagle said. "It was eye opening. I've never been in better physical condition. I went into the Air Guard after high school. When I got to basic training, I can honestly say it was a cakewalk.

"(1999) was a fun season. The season was the reward. We had already paid the price for the season well before it got there. Today when I see the guys that were on that team, I have a different respect for them. When you work hard for something it does pay off most of the time. You appreciate it more. That's what that season was about."

The first-team all-state as an offensive lineman talked about the 2000 and 20001 seasons under Jones as an upperclassman.

"Coach Jones did a good job. The old saying that you can't make chicken salad without chicken, you just can't. After a lot of our skill guys left, we had a lot of injuries. We were down to fourth and fifth string quarterback. I really enjoyed my last two years there."

In addition to football, Jones along with Coach John Mask reinvigorated the Tallassee wrestling program producing multiple individual champions and a team championship in 2014. Cagle won two state titles on the wrestling mats.

Cagle's game program photo

"He should've been a three-time champion," Jones added. "His sophomore year he lost in double overtime in the semifinals. We talk about every time we get together. He lost to Harold Wisdom who went to Jacksonville State to play linebacker. Harold Wisdom's son wrestled this year. I ran into Harold. I said, 'Did you wrestle for Deshler?' He said, 'Yeah.' I said, 'I'm from Tallassee.' He started laughing and said, 'You coached Eric Cagle.' I made a picture with him and sent it to Eric and said, 'This is your biggest nemesis.'"

Cagle talked about the title that eluded him his sophomore season.

"I met Harold in the semifinal at state. We went into double overtime. The first takedown wins then. I ended up getting a takedown on him. Everybody jumps up and is happy that I won. They teched me because when I got behind him my thumb got caught in (his) singlet. They gave him a point. I lost the match. It was disappointing, but I came back the next two years and got it done. Could've been a three-time, but you know how that goes - shoulda, coulda, woulda."

Mask talked about how his connection with Jones began in wrestling.

"Coach Jones was the new head (football) coach and AD when I was interviewing," Mask said . "I remember him asking me if I would help with wrestling. I said, 'What's that?'"

State Championship Moment in 2014 (left to right): Mask, Josh Epperson, Robi Rygiel, B.J. Thomas, Greg Bianchi, D.J. Rivers, Davontae McKenzie, Drew Baker, Jones.

2001 ended Jared Jones' two-year stint for the moment at Tallassee. But like Weaver who hired him and McCord, whom he played and coached with, Jones would return to the sidelines for the purple and gold.

Get your programs here!

Jones joined the staff at Oak Mountain for four years. Coach Phil Lindsey, his replacement at Tallassee, gave him an opportunity to rejoin his alma mater in 2006.

"Dr. (Kenneth) Varner called me and said, 'We're going to have an opening at the middle school.' He said he had talked to coach Lindsey. Coach Lindsey and I had spoken a couple of times. (He) needed a line coach. It was an opportunity for me to come back."

Jones served on Lindsey's staff and afterward with head coach Rodney Dollar. He returned to the head coaching position on an interim level in 2011.

"I was actually on the (hiring) committee," Jones remembered. "We just didn't have a lot of really good applicants. The one that we felt like would be a good choice was (Jeff) Foshee. He ended up dropping out. We went to meet and make a decision. Dr. (Jim) Jeffers asked me to excuse myself. He came back and said, 'We would like to do this again next year. Would you do this for one year?' That's kind of how that ended up."

Lindsey and Dollar filled the window between Jones' two stints at the helm. Lindsey coached from 2002-06 and Dollar from 2007-10.

"(I) never had a losing season until (Tallassee)," Lindsey said.

Things could not have started better for Lindsey at Tallassee. The very first offensive play went for a touchdown against Wetumpka. It would be the Tigers' only score of the night in a 44-6 defeat.

"The first game I coached on the varsity level," coach John Mask recalled, "CJ Lebetter to Stephen Cooper. The "CJ Special," we called it. It was a reverse pass touchdown. I said, 'This is going to be easy.' It just didn't go as well the rest of the year."

Lindsey's debut was an 0-10 campaign in 2002, the first winless season in school history.

"It wasn't so much the players," Lindsey said. "We started drug testing because there was a problem. Five or six players decided not to come out. A few other players quit the team before we started the season because of discipline problems."

Lindsey won a state championship at Lakeside High School in Atlanta in 1991. As a player, he was also a state champion.

Lindsey, who retired in 2012 after more than 40 years in coaching, still resides at nearby Lake Martin

"I went to Bradwell Institute in Hinesville, Ga. I played quarterback my senior year. We ended up winning the state championship going 14-0. It wasn't because I was a great quarterback, but I could call plays and hand the ball off getting it to people who were the best athletes on the team."

Football was not Lindsey's only strong suit. He played baseball and basketball as well. He played baseball in college but was almost sent off to Vietnam instead.

"It was 1966. My baseball coach called me and told me that South Georgia Junior College wanted me to come and play ball there. I said, 'I can't because I'm going to the military.' A few days later I got a notice in the mail that said I was college deferred. Apparently he knew somebody. I would've been in Vietnam and would've gladly gone.

"When I graduated from junior college I went to Georgia Southern. They had the lottery for the draft. They pulled your birthday out of a hat. If your birthday was in the top 150, you were going to be drafted. Mine was 342 or something like that."

When college was done, coaching was not at the forefront of Lindsey's career path.

"I started managing a clothing store in my hometown. I absolutely hated that. After about nine months of that I had enough. I took a job as a teacher and a coach. I took a job at Liberty County High School which was the all-black school in my hometown. We had not consolidated yet. It was me and one other white coach and two white students.

Tallassee in ASWA Top 10
*Highest Ranking By Year

Top Ranking
Head Coach
2018 No. 6 (5A) Mike Battles
2017 No. 4 Mike Battles
2013 No. 7 Mike Battles
2012 No. 8 Mike Battles
2010 No. 9 (5A) Rodney Dollar
2000 No. 4 Jared Jones
1999 No. 3 Mark Rose
1996 No. 6 Steve McCord
1991 No. 4 Woody Weaver
1990 No. 6 Woody Weaver
1989 No. 4 Woody Weaver
1988 No. 10 Woody Weaver
1983 No. 10 (3A) Mark Rice
1961 No. 5 (3A) Jackie Davis
1960 No. 3 (3A) Jackie Davis
1959 No. 6 (MA) Jackie Davis
1954 No. 8 (BPH) Charles Hattaway

*The ASWA weekly poll began in 1960.
Tallassee was ranked by the Montgomery Advertiser in 1959 and Birmingham Post-Herald in 1954.
THS was ranked in the Class 4A poll in all years unless noted otherwise. The Tigers moved from Class 3A to 4A when the number of AHSAA classifications expanded from four to six classes in 1984. The Tigers have been in Class 4A for 26 of 36 seasons since 1984.

"I actually played baseball at what was then called the Negro League. That was the term used for it. Me and one other white guy were the only ones that played in the entire league. I had a great experience. That year was one of the most rewarding. I'm so happy that I made that change."

The schools in Lindsey's hometown consolidated as coaching jobs followed throughout Georgia before he landed in Tallassee.

"The hardest thing when I first got to (Tallassee) was getting the kids in the weight room," he said. "I had some kids (say), 'Coach I'm working from 6 in the morning to 6 at night.' That was a problem for the first couple of years."

After the rough start at THS in '02. The 2003 season continued on a losing trend. The Tigers were 0-9 prior to the final game of the season at Dadeville. The program's longest ever losing streak dating back to 2001 was up to 20 games.

"The Auburn newspaper picked us to get beat by 21 points or something," said Lindsey. "We won by 21. That is the only time that I've ever had water thrown on me by my players. Even with the state championship, I wouldn't let players throw water on me. I said, 'No. Y'all throw it on each other. I didn't win this game, y'all did.' But for that one I really did not care."

Lindsey said in the post-game interview, "It's the most satisfying win I've ever had, state championships and all."

After the Dadeville victory in '03, things turned around for the Tigers. In 2004, Tallassee beat Childersburg 7-6 to clinch a playoff spot going 6-4 in the regular season.

"It was good for the players to see that you get the reward from the hard times that you've put in and the hard situations you've gone though.

Lindsey's best year was the following season with a 9-3 record. Tallassee beat Jemison 42-36 in the first round of the state playoffs.

2005 game program with a typo on Washington's name

One of the reasons for the success that came in Lindsey's latter years can be attributed to standout talent Demond Washington, who went on to play at Auburn University and in the CFL.

"Demond had a lot of character," Lindsey said. "Demond had to go through some rough situations. I thought the world of him. He was a very good talent. It was hard to move him from running back to quarterback, but we were able to build the offense around (him)."

Washington was a ninth grader player on the Tallassee team that ended the long losing streak at Dadeville.

"It was tough when we were losing. We loved the game of football whether we were winning or losing," Washington said. "The '99 team left a mark on me. The '05 team was a great team. We had James Henderson, Melvin Lightfoot, Dan Benson, CJ Ledbetter."

Washington was a two-time all-state selection.

In Lindsey's final season, Tallassee made the leap to Class 5A football for the first time in 2006. The Tigers went 5-5. Lindsey then made the decision to step down as head coach.

"It was very tough after coaching so many years as a head football coach. When I gave it up here I went to Auburn City Schools and coached the 7th grade team there. That's low key. I taught elementary school for three years. That was a lot of fun."

Lindsey was honored for his 41 years in coaching in 2012. He has been inducted into the Lakeside and Bradwell Hall of Fames in Georgia.

Coach Rodney Dollar with 2010 homecoming queen Kelsey Baker

Rodney Dollar was hired in '07. He played football, basketball and baseball at Central Phenix City in the last 1970s. In college he playe baseball, which led to a contract with the Houston Astros organization.

"I led the nation in hitting at Wallace of Dothan a long time ago. I signed at Auburn after that. We weren't very good at Auburn, but I wouldn't trade those years for anything."

Tallassee was 4-6 in Dollar's first season, but the next three produced winning seasons and playoff berths.

Mike Smith was named all-state in 2009.

"Smitty Grider, who was the coach at Beauregard at the time, is now the coach at the new Dothan High School," Dollar said. "He and I have had lunch a couple of times. Smitty always tells me I wasn't a good coach. I just had a good player. He's speaking of Mike Smith. Mike was a major difference in whoever we played at the time. If he broke it, he was gone.

Mike Smith

"There are so many times people say the coaches win or lose or quarterbacks win or lose. I was not near the coach I was without Trey Cochran-Gill. I do remember when I had to go to parents, I wasn't going to start him when I first got there. They let me put him in as a ninth grader. When he was on the field, he was never flustered. He was fantastic."

Cochran-Gill remembers when his opportunity came as a ninth grader.

"We were about three games into the season and coach Dollar came to me and said, 'I want to start you at quarterback. Do you think you're ready for it?' I was like, 'Yes sir. Let's do it. I jumped in there. Having so many great guys around you, made it a lot easier. My freshman year and sophomore year we were super talented.'

That first start for Cochran-Gill came against at Carroll of Ozark, the program that gave Dollar his first coaching job two decades prior. It became one of the biggest comebacks in Tallassee football history.

Tallassee trailed 21-0 at halftime, but caught fire in the second half. Jonathan Haynes had a career night in the 35-34 Tigers win.

"It was one of the more exciting games in my career," Dollar said. "We could do no wrong offensively and could not stop a pee wee team defensively."

Smith, Cochran-Gill and Hunter Mullins were all-state first-teamers during Dollar's time as head coach at Tallassee. Mullins was a two-time first-team pick.

Similar to Derrick Ansley, another THS quarterback, Cochran-Gill was recognized for his defensive position not offense by the Alabama Sports Writers Association.

"I was a free safety," he said. "I was always around the ball."

Trey Cochran-Gill

Other ASWA first-team choices from 2007-10 were; Chris Stice, Tyler Grant and T.C. Robinson. Robinson played in the 2010 AHSAA All-Star Game.

Mullins played played college football at UAB. Cochran-Gill went the baseball route to Auburn. Knapp also played baseball at South Alabama.

"Trey and Davis always clicked," said Dollar of the tandem. "We had Mike and Quan. Somebody was going to make a play. You didn't have to worry. They took over. It had nothing to do with me."

Cochran-Gill said he enjoyed both sports.

"I would've loved to play football, but I'm only like 5-10. If I could've had a few more inches. I still miss it. I still enjoy throwing the football. It would've been nice to go to college and play both."

Cochran-Gill is now a pitcher in the minor leagues. The success in football has in Cochran-Gill's mind aided on the baseball diamond and vice versa.

"You're competing against a batter, but really it's just you and that mitt. I think that carried over to football as well. Stick to the basics. Do the best you can. Manage the time. Try to put the guys in the right position to come out on top."

Dollar and the coaching staff (left to right): Jared Jones, Rick Golden, Scott Justiss, John Mask, Charlie Winchester, Leslie Waters, Adam Clayton, Terrel Brown, Danny Worley, Kenny Peters.

Tallassee beat No. 1 Eufaula 20-17 in 2008 with Cochran-Gill as the field general. Brian Simpson returned a kick for a 99-yard touchdown. Hunter Mullins kicked a 33-yard field goal that put the Tigers on top.

"Hunter got us out of a lot of problems," said Dollar. "At Eufaula, Dan (Klages) had some really good athletes. That's always special when you can beat number one."

Cochran-Gill said the 2008 team might have been the best during his four years with the program.

"I think that team was probably the most talented team that I played on. You had Mike Smith and Quan Williams at running back. The receivers could catch and fly. Good defense. Good line. All the way around the board, that was a solid team right there."

Miles Hathcock of WTLS interviews Coach Rodney Dollar after the Tigers' overtime win in Valley to clinch the 2009 region title.

Tallassee won its first region title in 5A football in 2009 with a 17-14 overtime win at Valley.

"The one thing I do remember about that game is they scheduled us for homecoming," Cochran-Gill said. "That kind of lit a fire under us and gave us a little extra motivation."

The Tigers made a stop in the extra frame to preserve the victory, but the chance would not have come if not for a blocked field goal by Davis Knapp late in the fourth quarter.

"I went out on the field," said Dollar. "Davis Knapp runs up to me and says, 'I think I can block it coach.' I said, 'Block it.' He figured some way (to) beat that corner and he did.

"That was the biggest win we had. It meant the most. That was a good night. We came back listening to the "Scoreboard Show" on the bus."

WTLS Scoreboard Show host Trey Taylor remembers Dollar's wife Kim calling in.

"She wanted to hear, "No Parking on the Dance Floor." Kudos to Kim. We jammed it."

Tallassee made its first appearance in the ASWA poll as a 5A team prior to the 2010 season at No. 10. One of Tallassee largest crowds came in the 2010 season opener vs. Benjamin Russell. J. E. "Hot" O'Brien Stadium had undergone renovations with seating expansion in the off-season including flipping the the home side stands to the west side of the playing field.

"The atmosphere was great," Cochran-Gill said. "The fans came out and rooted us on. That's one of the great things about Friday night; coming out of the new fieldhouse, the walk through into a full stadium, underneath the lights. That was good to see that turnout."

Tallassee won the game 19-17.

The new home stands at J.E. "Hot" O'Brien Stadium after stadium expansion in 2010

Tallassee went 9-2 in 2010 falling to Eufaula 14-13 and in the playoffs to eventual state champ Spanish Fort 34-21.

"I'll never forget that last game in the playoffs," said Dollar. "That crowd that last game was unreal. It was just electric. I've never seen anything like that in high school to this day."

The Tigers fell in the first round of the playffs in 2008, '09 and '10.

"We had a lot of talent. It was just getting past that first round," Cochran-Gill noted. "We always matched up with that Mobile region. Any of those teams could've been the No. 1 seed."

In 2011, Jared Jones followed Dollar as interim head coach. Mike Battles, Jr. was brought in the year after.

"He's a great coach," Jones said. "It's been a great hire. The hire was so big because he's (still) here and staying. Just having that is big."

Battles' first THS team in 2012

Now heading into the 101st season of Tallassee football, Battles is second in longest tenures only to O'Brien. 2021 will be his 10th season as head coach.

What has kept Battles around?

"The biggest thing is this is a wonderful place," Battles said. "The kids are great. You hear people say 'good fit.' It just worked out that my personality and the way we like to do things fits here. We love this town. The kids like it."

Coaching is in the genes. Battles father was also a football coach.

"I grew up in a fieldhouse. I was cutting the football field when I was five. I've never known anything different."

Former Tallassee coach Frank Autery remembers five-year-old "Little Mike" hanging around Mike Sr.

Battles after accepting the THS job in 2012

"I knew him when he was a small child," Autery said. "I coached in Georgia and his dad coached in Georgia. His dad won a state championship at Irwin County. Each Saturday morning we'd take our films to the same processing place. (He'd) be out there in his daddy's car asleep."

When Battles took the Tallassee job, his first residence was in a house owned by Autery.

"I introduced myself, 'I'm Mike Battles Jr.' He said, 'I'm Frank Autery. I know you. It's been a few years.' It's a small world."

Aftet playing high school ball for his father at Walter Wellborn, Battles played college football at Samford under a couple of notable coaches, Terry Bowden and Chan Gailey.

Two head coaching positions at Oak Grove and Bibb County preceded the Tallassee opening.

"I called Mark (Rose)," Battles recalled. "He's the only guy I knew that really had a tie. I said, 'What do you think?' He said, 'If you're fortunate enough to get the job you won't regret it.' He told the truth."

The first season in Tallassee was a good one. The Tigers went 9-3. One of the most thrilling wins came early in the season when Nic Mullins lined up for a 45-yard field goal vs. Charles Henderson in Troy. *(Nic Mullins Kick Video)

Nic Mullins hit the game winner, a 45-yard field goal to beat Charles Henderson as time expired in Troy during Battles' first season in 2012

There was 59 seconds left. We got the ball on probably about the 30-yard line. Our mindset was let's just make a first down (and) run the clock out. We're going to overtime. It's 14-14. Then Herman (McKenzie) busts one down the sideline. He gets on about their 48. We run two plays and they stop us. On third down, the clock is ticking down. Jed Carter drops back to pass. They rush. They're about to get him. He jukes up, breaks to the ouside and runs down their sideline out of bounds. We had time. Then of course Nic goes out there.

"I've got a picture behind my desk with the ball coming right through the uprights. It was another improbable one. Our boys weren't playing for overtime."

The last game of the 2012 season did go to overtime. After a first-round win over Clarke County 17-14, the Tigers traveled to Dora. Tallassee lost in OT 41-40. Or did they?

A dejected Dijon Paschal after being ruled short of the end zone on the final play of the 2012 season. Tallassee lost to Dora in overtime 41-40 in the second round of the playoffs. Paschal played college football at Arkansas State.

"We didn't lose. They called that wrong," Battles said. "They had a good football team. Herman went down in the first quarter. We basically put everything on the shoulders of Dijon Paschal. Dijon kept us in the game. We scored and it was a no brainer. We were going for two. I'm looking on the field and Dijon from about the waist up is laying in the end zone. The head official is about to raise his hands up. Then one runs over and does that.

"What might have happened? Who knows? What if Herman doesn't get hurt in the first quarter? That's just what ifs."

Battles first Tallassee team broke the record for points in a season with 458 outscoring opponents by an average of 38-17.

"There was a lot of talent. It was a great group to come into. I've been very fortunate when I've taken new jobs and come to places, we've had great players. They made us look like good coaches that first year."

Tallassee was 8-3 in 2013 and 8-4 in 2014.

Brandon Baynes was a first-team all-state selection who was named the Class 5A Back of the Year after the '14 season. He broke the single-season rushing record at Tallassee with 2,599 yards, previously held by Justin Williams.

Brandon (left) and younger brother Casey

Baynes also broke the single-game mark with 392 yards on the ground at Talladega, a 40-6 win.

"They honored his grandfather Ronnie that night. Ronnie was a three-sport letterman at Talladega," Battles said. "We were playing against one of my high school buddies Robert Herring, "Little" Robert. Big Robert was the coach at Oxford. Jeremy Sewell was a kicker at Oxford. He was one of the assistant coaches. One of the officials was Jason Troupe, a linebacker off that same team. I went out there before the game and handed Troupe a dollar bill and said, 'Hey, try to keep this semi-fair.

"Robert tells the story. In the third or fourth quarter, it was the last time Brandon took off. Robert's yelling, 'That's a clip." Troupe turns around and said, 'It ain't going to make a difference.' Those are things you remember."

Once Baynes hit the open field, short runs became long touchdowns thanks to his exceptional speed. He finished second overall at the 2014 state indoor meet in the Class 1A-4A 60 meters.

Although the record for rushing yards in a game came against Talladega, Baynes said his 380 yards at Lineville in a 31-15 win over. Clay County was more impressive.

"Central of Clay was my best game. They were far better than Talladega. It was such a huge game for us."

After a 5-6 campaign in 2015, THS rebounded with records of 9-4 in 2016 and 10-2 in 2017 with another Baynes in the lineup, Brandon's brother Casey.

Casey, like his brother Brandon who preceded him, was a star not only in football but baseball too. He played in the Alabama All-Star Sports Week baseball and football games during his junior and senior years.

Both Baynes went the baseball route in college. Brandon played at Central Alabama Community College and AUM. Casey played at Southern Union.

"I liked baseball, but it was hard to beat football games," Brandon said. "I didn't know what I was going to do until it came down to having to choose one. It was a hard decision. I thought about it for months."

Casey also had a mutual passion for both sports.

"I loved football and baseball too, but (with) football you can't beat a Friday night."

The Pride of Tallassee

Battles saw something in Casey in his first home start against W.S. Neal during the 2016 season.

"We're losing and get the ball on (our) 19-yard line with 1:21 left. Casey led us down the field in about five plays and jumped into the end zone on the last play and won the game. That's when we knew we had a leader."

The 26-21 come-from-behind win vs. Neal in 2016 showed that Baynes had the moxie needed when the game was on the line. *(W.S. Neal Video)

"That last drive, just thinking about it gives me chills," Baynes said. "When I was running time was running down. I just kept going and Brady Hancock and Markevious (Matthews) kept blocking down the field. I didn't know I was going to score until I got to about the 10-yard line. It was like right there. There was one dude who was about to get me, so I had to dive.

"I remember laying there for about five seconds and Jake Burton coming over and just hitting me. I remember flexing running down in front of the stands. It was a great play and great memory I will always have."

The quarterback also orchestrated the biggest comeback in THS football history that season in Brewton vs. T.R. Miller. Miller was 6-0 all time vs. Tallassee and appeared to be on their way to their seventh win in as many tries. Tallassee overcame a 22-point 29-7 third quarter deficit in a 33-29 win. *(TR Miller Comeback Video Highlights)

Tallassee's 9-1 regular season was the best since the 2010 season. The No. 4 ranking at season's end was the highest since 2000. The 10 wins was the most since 1999.

The tenth win of the '17 campaign came in dramatic fashion. Tallassee faced Thomasville at home in the first round of the state playoffs. The game went to overtime. After the Tallassee defense stopped Thomasville on their first possession, Thomasville returned the favor.

Quenton Jeter celebrates with his teammates after his game-winner

Quenton Jeter lined up for a 25-yard field goal and made it for a 35-32 win. The next week, Tallassee was knocked out of the playoffs by Bibb County 41-16.

In Battles first nine years, five players have been named first team all-state by the ASWA; Herman McKenzie (2012), Brandon Baynes (2013, '14), Jake Baker (2016), Trent Cochran-Gill (2017) and Kalvin Levett (2018).

Tallassee's quest for its first state title continues with the next century of football. Battles said the program would have trophies if a playoff system were in place during the O'Brien era.

"It's something I think about all the time. I look at missed opportunities I've had as a player and a coach. One team's going to win it. That's it. As you go through your career you start eliminating the things that can keep you from doing it. You try to make sure you cover all the things, so when you ahve that one year, when you have that group of kids, you have the bunch that can do it.

"I don't think that there's a coach in the state of Alabama that doesn't wake up every morning thinking about winning that championship. My dad had two - 36 years apart. Those 35 years, every morning he got up thinking about the next one. If that's not your ultimate goal, you probably need to find something else to do."

Tallassee Football Records
All-Time Record: 545-413-24 (57%)
Region/Area Titles: 10
All-State Players: 127
Winning Seasons: 63
Losing Seasons: 34
Most Wins in a Season: 13 (1999)
Most Losses in a Season: 10 (2002)
Most Points Scored in a Game: 77 (vs. Tuskegee in 1928, 77-0)
Most Points Scored in a Season: 458 (2012)
Most Points Allowed in a Game: 61 (at UMS-Wright in 2001, 61-7)
Most Points Allowed in a Season: 346 (2011)
Largest Margin of Victory: 77 (vs. Tuskegee in 1928, 77-0)
Largest Margin of Defeat: 56 (at Lanett in 1994, 56-0)
Most Points By Both Teams in Game: 92 (at B.B. Comer in 1988, Lost 47-45)
Longest Win Streak: 33 (Oct. 6, 1944 - Oct. 31, 1947)
Longest Losing Streak: 20 (Nov. 9, 2001 - Oct. 24, 2003)
Playoff Record: 16-25
Most Played Rivalry: Wetumpka 68 Times (Tallassee leads 35-31-2)

A Century of THS Football (Part I - The Beginning)
A Century of THS Football (Part II - The Early Years Before O'Brien)
A Century of THS Football (Part III - J. E. "Hot" O'Brien)
A Century of THS Football (Part IV - Following O'Brien)
A Century of THS Football (Part V - 1963-73)
A Century of THS Football (Part VI - The Baynes Era)
A Century of THS Football (Part VII - 1982-86)
A Century of THS Football (Part VIII - The Weaver Years)
A Century of THS Football (Part IX - 1994-99)
A Century of THS Football (Part X - A New Millenium)
A Century of THS Football (Part XI - Lindsey)
A Century of THS Football (Part XII - Dollar Days)
A Century of THS Football (Part XIII - Battles)

The first team - 1921 Tigers
Front row, left to right: Edgar Hoyle (substitute), Willie Langley (right tackle), Henry Homer (right end), Jim Hurston (right guard), Morrell Horn (center), Dan Mason (left guard), Jack Wright (left tackle), Louis Taunton (substitute). Back row, left to right: Morland Hornsby (quarterback), Jake Catchings (halfback), Tom Mason (fullback), Austin Buce (halfback). Photo by Bilbrey Studio. Courtesty of Talisi Historical Preservation Society from "Images of America - Tallassee"