“What happened to us last year is we ran out of gas. We need to get more kids involved so we can rest them and have a little more juice in the fourth quarter … As the season progresses — in those first two, three, four games — we need to have some times where we can put some of these younger kids in and let them get some experience. Then we’re going to be able to compete.”
— Mike Battles Jr., Tallassee head coach
The 2018 season was a change of pace for Tallassee, as the Tigers missed the playoffs for the first time in 11 years. In order to return to the postseason, Tallassee must do so with its third quarterback in three years.
Wide receiver-turned-quarterback Kalvin Levett is off to Tuskegee, leaving the door open for sophomore Trese (pronounced trās) Ledbetter and freshman Tyler Ellis. Ledbetter is a 5-foot-10, 170-pound dual-threat quarterback who also possesses a good arm; Ellis, meanwhile, is a traditional pocket passer who is 6-foot-1, 165 pounds.
If the two don’t separate themselves going into the fall, Tallassee head coach Mike Battles Jr. has no reservations about using both.
“I know everybody says this and that, but we're going to do whatever it takes to win,” Battles said. “If that means playing two of them, then that's what we'll do. If not, we'll play one of them, and one of them will just move and play another position and be a contributor that way.”
Battles also expressed concern about his offensive line, specifically due to their youth. He declined to name the ones who have stood out, instead explaining there were about 10 who were still competing for the starting five spots.
As far as receiving targets, Battles pointed to Truck Griffin and Matt Justiss as the duo the Tigers are relying on to make big plays.
“Those guys right there as far as the receiving corps, they're the ones who are going to have to have good years for us to have success,” Battles said.
Battles’ plan for the early weeks of the season is to rely heavily on the defense while the offense figures things out. Given the talent that’s returning to the Tigers’ defense, it’s easy to understand the strategy.
Tallassee has plenty of experienced players back from last season, especially at linebacker. Battles expects big things from Griffin as well as fellow linebackers Eng'Tavius “Brisket” Briskey-Chappell and Jacob Webster.
Behind Griffin, Briskey-Chappell and Webster, Battles expects Napoleon Foster-Reed and Matthew Baker to stand out at the safety position.
Battles explained that the Tigers defensive line is experienced but perhaps a bit undersized. He explained the members of the front hover around 200 pounds, but they are athletic and able to run.
Battles sees Tallassee’s entire defense as a promising group that can keep the team in contention in a competitive Region 2-5A.
“Defensively, I feel like we're going to be pretty solid there. As long as we stay healthy, those first 11 now can go. After that, we've got some young kids … Those guys right there are going to have to have good years. They're in the core, and there in the secondary in the middle.
“If they have good years, we're going to have a good year.”