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With the season just a week away, myself and sports writer Caleb Turrentine are continuing to count things down with our Inside the Lines Podcast preview series.

We moved back to Elmore County this week, kicking it off with Holtville on Monday.

The Bulldogs received votes in the ASWA preseason poll and they’re looking to crack the top 10 for the first time since 1993. One thing that could help them get there is their balanced offense of having Kolby Potts, JJ Jackson, Hunter Martin and Drew Pickett all on the attack.

“It’s a blessing,” Holtville coach Jason Franklin said. “We have four guys that I feel like can really do things with the football. Now we have to figure out how to manage that. Everyone is worried about how we are going to do the quarterbacks but man, we have four running backs so how do we get those four guys the football? It’s a good problem to have.”

Meanwhile, the Elmore County Panthers, who we discussed in Tuesday’s podcasts, have a bit more questions especially after the graduation of star running back DJ Patrick. But Caleb got a chance to sit down with ECHS coach Jordan Cantrell and it’s clear the Panthers are using missing the playoffs due to a tiebreaker as motivation to get to the postseason this year.

“Last year was devastating but we controlled our destiny,” Cantrell said. “If we had won another game, and there were a couple of games where we had the opportunity to do it and we didn’t. That left it in the hands of a tiebreaker and that was our fault. Now it’s a new year though and we’re looking for Marbury.”

We came back to Tallapoosa County to have a special-guest interview with Dadeville’s Max McClendon on Wednesday. McClendon has been a staple of both the offensive and defensive lines since he was a sophomore, but he’s never had the blessing of making the playoffs. Now in his senior season, he’s fighting for just that.

“Definitely this summer we’ve been knocking heads,” McClendon said. “The last practice we had we went full pads and definitely everybody has a hunger to get back in the playoffs. Everybody is hitting heads. Everybody knows that last year we could’ve been a lot more than we were; everybody knows we should’ve been in the playoffs. This year we’ve been battling to make it into the playoffs.”

McClendon has emerged as a senior leader and is also excited to see how this year’s younger class seems just as ready to get back into the postseason as the veterans. Last season, five of Dadeville’s seven losses were by 11 points or fewer, and it’s looking to change that trend this year.

“We’ve definitely learned from our mistakes,” McClendon said. “Everybody here knows how to finish. I feel like everyone is going to want to fight more and fight harder. We have a lot of younger kids and these younger kids are hungry. They want to play just as bad as the seniors do, so they’re going to be able to finish the games that we couldn’t finish last year.”

Today, we will head back to Elmore County as our Inside the Lines Preview Podcast continues every weekday.

The remaining schedule is as follows:

Thursday, Aug. 15 — Tallassee Tigers preview

Friday, Aug. 16 — Stanhope Elmore Mustangs preview

Monday, Aug. 19 — Wetumpka Indians preview

Tuesday, Aug. 20 — Benjamin Russell Wildcats preview

That will lead us directly into our Week 0 preview which will be released Wednesday, Aug. 21 in conjunction with our Gridiron Guides.

To listen to the full interviews with our coaches and players and the rest of the preview podcasts, visit us online. We are also available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify. If you have any questions for us or special guests, feel free to reach out and we’ll get those answered for you as well.

Lizi Arbogast is the sports editor at Tallapoosa Publishers, Inc.