The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

December 5, 2013

Experience could be the difference for Tanner

By Jonathan Deal
jonathan@athensnews-courier.com

— Speaking with Tanner football players Wednesday afternoon, you wouldn’t know they were less than 48 hours away from a state championship game. Calm, cool and collected, each player answered questions with the confidence you would expect from a team playing in its third consecutive 2A title game.

“I’m not as nervous,” said Tanner quarterback JonJon Fletcher. “I know what to look for. It’s not my first time playing on the big stage. The last time we played at Alabama, we got kind of embarrassed and I got whooped all over the field. I was a small freshman and they ran at me.”

Three years ago, Tanner found themselves in the same situation, preparing for a trip to Bryant-Denny Stadium to play Elba for the state championship. That was the program’s first trip to the Super Six.

For Tanner’s juniors and seniors, this will be their third in as many years.

“If we get behind in the game, we’re not just going to lay down and quit,” said Fletcher. “I want to jump out on them early. By halftime, I don’t want there to be a doubt.”

Tanner’s opponent is no stranger to the Super Six either. In fact, this is the same team the Rattlers faced last year and kept the score close until Tanner pulled away in the fourth quarter for a 28-14 win.

“I know they’re going to come out and play hard since we beat them last year,” said Fletcher. “Everybody has been telling me: Don’t underestimate them. We just have to come out and play.”

Washington County knows Fletcher all too well. The dual-threat quarterback scrambled for a score to put Tanner ahead and then returned an interception 44 yards to put the game away in the fourth.

Many of those players return for today’s rematch. While nerves are always a factor, the upperclassmen on these teams know what to expect.