“It’s like you heard coach (Nick) Saban say a few years ago when they got beat by Clemson on basically the last play of the game. His response was, 'Sometimes a failure isn't bad. It's bad when you waste it.' There's a lot of good that happened throughout the year, but that last thing was a bad taste in our mouth that I believe has motivated us tremendously throughout the offseason.”
- Matt Johnson, Reeltown head coach
Last season, Reeltown rode a running back combination of Faison and Hughley to a region championship. They look to do the same thing this fall, but with a twist.
Cameron Faison comes back to take the lead back role for the Rebels, but it’s KeKe Hughley’s brother, TraTra, who will take the graduated KeKe’s spot. TraTra was supposed to be the top ball carrier in 2018 before a knee injury on the first play of the season ended those plans.
Reeltown head coach Matt Johnson is hoping out home TraTra returns to form to fuel the Rebels’ offense to another outstanding season.
“Getting TraTra back — if we can get TraTra back to the old TraTra — that would be just a huge 1-2 punch for us,” Johnson said. “If he comes back full speed in that nature, that would absolutely be a huge 1-2 punch if that was possible.”
One of the lingering questions for Reeltown is who will be handing Faison and Hughley the football this fall.
Khoner Davis’ graduation has caused a three-man race to replace him between rising senior Logan Hunt and rising sophomore Iverson Hooks. Hunt’s arm and accuracy has him in the thick of things, but Hooks’ athletic ability has made the battle far from over.
The Rebels had a challenge on their hands settling the offensive line in 2018, but the product for this fall is an experienced one. Johnson credited L.J. Hill, Nelson Whaley, Dee Griffin, J.T. Billingsley, Landon Kelley and Landon Rewkowski has all being capable of filling needed positions up front.
When it doubt, let linebacker Eric Shaw snuff it out.
Shaw, who also plays receiver for Reeltown, is a four-star recruit for a reason. His size and speed has college coaches salivating, and his return from an ACL injury has Johnson anticipating a big season from the soon-to-be senior.
As much as Shaw is a sure thing, there are plenty of unknowns surrounding him at linebacker. The Rebels graduated a great deal of talent at the position, but the return of TraTra will help bolster the group. Johnson is also expecting Hunt, Rico Brooks, Robert Crittenden and Jay Corbitt to be in the mix to play meaningful time at the position.
“That was a big question mark for us, but we've got some guys stepping back up,” Johnson said. “We've had some guys step up that have really been doing a great job for us. It's still competitive, and that's what we want.”
The second level of Reeltown’s defense has some cause for concern. The same cannot be said for the first and third levels.
Up front, Johnson sees Whaley, Hill, Griffin, Robert Langston and Jayvius Chapman as handling the roles well and taking pressure off the linebackers after the group had an excellent spring.
Johnson also sees the secondary as having as much depth as he’s had in a long time. He named Hooks, Rhasheed Wilson and Zantjuan Knight as players to keep an eye out for on the back side of the defense.