It’s been so long since the Tigers had a winning season — or made the playoffs — there’s not a player on its roster who was even on the planet at the time.
But they appear primed to change that. This year they have the experience and a more favorable region.
The Tigers return seven starters on offense, including junior quarterback Zack Spratlin, and eight on defense to do battle in a region with perhaps only two dominant teams. The last time coach Chris Mahand had that kind of experience, he took rival Talladega County Central to the state finals.
“This is definitely the deepest I’ve been talent-wise since I’ve been at Talladega,” said Mahand, who begins his fourth season at the Tigers’ helm. “This will actually be the first year I’m going to get to start more juniors and seniors than freshmen and sophomores.”
And even better, those juniors and seniors have played under Mahand since their eighth grade, so there shouldn’t be any doubt about understanding what both sides want to get done. Three of the seniors — LB-TE Dominic Johnson, DE-WR Justin Kelly and OL Johnathon Cunningham — have been starters in the Mahand Method since they were freshmen.
“You can’t trade that experience for anything,” Mahand said. “These guys have received their bumps and bruises and going on 19 years without a winning season. They’re hungry.
“When you’re playing 5A, 6A you’re going to need everything in place to be successful. Finally we have the opportunity some of these other 5A schools have had over the years.
“I was telling my coaches these young men have gone through some rough times. I don’t have a kid on the team I think was even born the last time they had a winning season. The only thing they grew up with was the troubles the football team was going through. That’s all they’ve know. They feel ownership to having this drought end.”
Talladega’s last trip to the state playoffs was 1995. The last time it had a winning record was 1994. The Tigers have never won a playoff game (0-7).
If this indeed is the year they break through, Mahand said it would be “a big victory for the kids, but also the community and the school.”
“It’ll give the town pride to have a successful team again,” he said.