After a stellar start to the Class 2A playoffs, the Reeltown Rebels stand one win away from playing in the state championship game. To get to Jordan-Hare Stadium, the Rebels must first take care of business tonight.
Reeltown (12-1, 6-0) will play in the friendly confines of Nix-Webster-O’Neal Stadium against Leroy (11-2, 7-0). The winner of the showdown between the Rebels and the Bears will take on the winner of Fyffe versus Collinsville during the Super 7 championship series on Friday, Dec. 6.
The Rebels’ offense continued chugging along last week with a dominant 41-22 home victory over G.W. Long. While the Reeltown defenders held steady, their counterparts on offense jumped on the road Rebels and made them pay with big play after big play.
A little over 500 yards of offense later, the Rebels had moved on to the state semis for the first time since 2012.
“I was really impressed with how we played on both sides of the football. Defensively, they posed a lot of things that we had to work on because they were kind of two different teams coming in,” Reeltown head coach Matt Johnson said. “They came out in the second half with a little more spread (offense), and I felt like our guys were more comfortable with that. That was big. The reason they had to do that was because of how fast we started offensively.
“We got Cam (Faison) and Tre Tre (Hughley) and our backs in space and gave them holes to run through. We also did a good job of mixing it up and throwing the ball a little bit.”
Faison once again set the standard for the Rebels’ offense in a season packed with big moments. Faison ended the team’s latest win with 193 rushing yards and three total touchdowns in an effort that once again showed how dangerous the senior is with the ball in his hands.
In Johnson’s opinion, Faison has just gotten better as the season has gone along.
“He's got God-given abilities,” Johnson said. “He's an explosive runner. He's gotten better at blocking and running between the tackles. Those two things he's really improved on. It's made him more of a complete back. He had more runs last week in between the tackles than he'd had all year.
“That's what I've been more impressed with probably with Cam — his patience as a runner. He doesn't give up on the play. He lets it open up, and sometimes he's mature to getting three or four yards and then being fine with it until it opens up and he can pop it.”
Johnson credited the entire team for getting Reeltown in this position. Now, it’s about the Rebels finishing their final home game of 2019 on the right note.
Johnson said Leroy does a lot of things well and are particularly sound on defense. On the other side of the ball, Johnson said to expect multiple formations for the Bears’ offense and plenty of eye candy to throw defenses off.
As far as Leroy players to watch, Johnson pointed to running back Kelston Fikes, tight end Aaron Stearns, receivers Caleb Moore and Jakobi Jackson and fullback Hunter Weaver as Bears who could make big plays.
Johnson said the main objective for Reeltown tonight is slowing down Fikes on defense and holding onto the football on offense. Johnson is looking for the Rebels to cut down on penalties, establish long drives and keep Fikes and the Bears’ offense on the sideline as long as possible.
Reeltown has winning tradition over the years, and now the Rebels stand two wins away from their fourth championship in program history. Johnson is expecting a 48-minute battle tonight for the right to go to Auburn, but a victory would be one that the entire Reeltown community could rally behind.
“Oh man, that would be huge. That would be enormous. We talked with these kids about earning things. They have to take it, and they do. The mentality, the growth and the maturity that they've come through — there's so many great stories on this team,” Johnson said. “I'm really proud of them, and I think that will just be huge for them. It would be huge for the community to see guys trying to do it the right way and still be able to have success. I think that would just be great.”