The future looks bright for the Tanner football program, but the present looks a lot more murky due to the large number of eighth-graders the coach has had to play due to injuries.
There are eight eighth-graders on the varsity roster, and most of them have gotten more playing time than expected in the Rattlers' first two games, losses to West Limestone and Clements.
Last Friday, injuries forced coach Oscar Bonds to start four eighth-graders on defense, and the results were probably predictable, as Clements running back Jairrice Pryor ran for 217 yards and scored six touchdown in a 48-14 Colts victory.
“Some of the young guys did a pretty good job to fill in as eighth graders,” Bonds said. "They are getting thrown into the fire. The future looks pretty good with those guys.”
Tanner jumps into Class 2A, Region 7 play Friday night with a road game at Colbert County. The Indians have a potent offense, having defeated Central-Florence 34-28 and Cherokee 48-0 to open the season.
“The biggest thing is Colbert County has got some good athletes who can go for a long play at any time,” Bonds said. “We've got to be able to eliminate the big play. I think they are averaging 41 points per game through their first two games, so it's going to be critical for us to slow them down on offense.”
The good thing is Tanner will have its injured players back this week, which means fewer eighth graders will be in the starting lineup. However, Bonds said the experience they get on the varsity team this year will help them in future years.
The Tanner junior high football team is having great success so far this season, and Bonds is looking forward to seeing how that team transitions to varsity in the future.
“The junior high won its first game 38-0, so they are looking good,” Bonds said. “It's just a different speed when you go from junior high to varsity. It's something they are going to have to get used to when they play on Friday night.”