Dadeville football practice

Andy Anders / The Outlook Dadeville competes in a fall camp practice Tuesday, Aug. 3.

Getting its start a week later than the other teams of the Tallapoosa County area, for Dadeville, Friday finally marks the opening of football season.

The Tigers head to Eclectic to take on Elmore County, a team that fell at home to Moody by a 49-28 tally in Week 1.

“They’re really good on offense. They’ve got some good skill players,” Dadeville head coach Roger McDonald said. “What they do on offense, they do really well. We know going into it it’s gonna be a tough test for us.”

After Loachapoaka, Dadeville’s preseason scrimmage opponent, canceled the exhibition scheduled for Aug. 13, the Tigers have been mauling each other exclusively throughout August.

Friday finally gives the squad’s players a chance to beat up someone else.

“We’ve basically been practicing five weeks to get ready for this one,” McDonald said. “The kids are ready to play. They’re ready to hit somebody else and get after somebody else.”

Elmore County’s offense is led by junior quarterback Payton Stephenson, a dual-threat returning starter from 2020 who threw for 748 yards and rushed for 643 more last season, both team highs.

His legs could provide an interesting dimension to the Panthers’ spread attack. He rushed for 95 yards against Moody.

“We just play our defense,” McDonald said. “We don’t try to put anything in that’s special for anybody. We just play our defense and get after it and let the chips fall where they may.”

A pair of sophomores share the load toting the rock for Elmore County, whose rushers averaged 6.5 yards per carry in the team’s first game. Running back C.J. Wilkes and wide receiver Jabari Murphy combined for 171 yards on just 19 carries last week.

Murphy is a dynamic athlete who’s already landed multiple D-1 offers to Power Five football schools, including a couple SEC teams. He added five receptions for 56 yards and a touchdown to his rushing totals against Moody.

“They do a really good job with their scheme,” McDonald said. “They have a good back, a good receiver and a good quarterback. They’re gonna get the ball in those three guys’ hands, and we’ve gotta get after them. We’ve gotta play defense, play hard and tackle well and tack in space.”

The biggest question marks for Elmore County remain buried within its defense.

The Panthers surrendered 35.6 points per game last season, and lost the only player on that team with more than one sack in Cole Booth.

Junior defensive back Garret Allen intercepted four passes in 2020, and the team’s two leading tacklers in seniors Mason Carter and Reece Baker are returning from last year as well. Surrendering 49 points to open the season against Moody doesn’t bode well, however.

“They’re young on defense, but I’m sure they’re gonna get a lot better from Week 1 to Week 2,” McDonald said.

Offensive tactics remain mostly the same for the Tigers regardless of their opponent, McDonald has said throughout the run up to this season, and that remains true against Elmore County. Dadeville will line up and smash the ball downfield with its running game, seeking 3.4 yards per carry out of an I-formation.

Dadeville and Elmore County kick off their contest at 7 p.m. Friday.

Football is back in all its abnormal glory

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