Tanner coach Oscar Bonds spent the first two years of his tenure trying to rebuild the foundation of the Rattlers program.
In this third year, all that building has paid off with a winning record and a playoff berth. Tanner finished the regular season with a 6-4 record and claimed the No. 4 spot in Class 2A, Region 7. The Rattlers will play at Region 6 champion Spring Garden in the first round of the playoffs Friday night.
The six wins Tanner got this year was more than the three previous seasons combined. The Rattlers were 1-9 in each of Bonds' first two seasons as coach, with both wins coming over Tharptown.
“It means a lot (to make the playoffs),” Bonds said. “A lot of these guys have put in a lot of hard work. They've been learning the system and learning what's expected of them from me and the other coaches.”
The transformation didn't come quickly or easily. Bonds said when he arrived, there were multiple linemen who couldn't even bench press 200 pounds.
“Seeing that, I knew we would struggle for a year or two,” Bonds said. “But to see how strong they've gotten over the years is a big plus. A lot of them are in so much better shape.”
Tanner finished the year strong, winning four out of their last five games. Part of that success came due to moving Karl Parham to quarterback and former quarterback Skylar Townsend to receiver. Bonds said Parham has done a good job of leading the offense, while Townsend is a big, athletic target on the outside.
“It has really improved the offense,” Bonds said. “I think (Parham) gives us the best opportunity to get it to our playmakers. And Skylar is a better receiver because he is a rangy guy. Those two flipping positions gave our offense more explosion that we needed.”
The Rattlers will face a strong challenge in Spring Garden. The Panthers finished the regular season with a 9-1 record and were 7-0 in region play.
“They are just a solid team overall,” Bonds said. “Last year they were a 1A team and won the region and they moved up to 2A this year and won the region again. They've got two big running backs that we've got to stop. They're a physical football team and don't make a lot of mistakes. We've got to be on top of our game to beat them.”
No matter what happens Friday, Tanner fans should feel confident about the future of the program. Bonds said 16 of the 25 players on the roster are freshmen.
“I see a lot of these guys out here just getting better,” Bonds said. “It's a big plus to know a lot of these guys are coming back.”