Points were at a premium Friday night at the 55th meeting between Dadeville and Reeltown with the Tigers ultimately coming away with a 7-6 win over the Rebels.
More was on the line than ever with Reeltown (4-4, 3-3) moving up to Class 3A and also finding home in Region 4, alongside bitter rival Dadeville (5-3, 3-3). Playoff implications were on the line for the first time as well with the game normally being played within the first two weeks of the season in its storied history.
Dadeville coach Roger McDonald was smiling from ear to ear and congratulated all his players for the hard-fought win, snapping a two-game all time losing streak to the Rebels in McDonald’s first season.
“Our guys came out and fought their guts out tonight,” McDonald said. “Hats off to coach (Matt) Johnson; that’s a heck of a high school football game. You didn’t see anything fancy out here tonight, just two teams playing old fashioned football and pounding each other. Both teams fought until the very end and it showed with a missed extra point being the difference.”
McDonald said he was proud of his team for stepping up on the road and playing hard for the players that aren’t able to right now.
“This game means a lot to our kids with several out right now,” McDonald said. “This is the first time all year we played guys both ways and they didn’t come out; we told them it’s playoff time. We put some of our best guys on the defensive side of the ball thinking we could make it hard for them to score the ball and that’s what happened.”
The game was still knotted up at the end of three quarters with Dadeville driving when the Rebels forced a fourth down and 10 for the Tigers. McDonald sent out kicker Gunner Fourtenbary but then called a timeout. Following the timeout, McDonald sent his offense back on the field to try and convert a fourth and long, which ended in a Lane Smith incompletion to Avontae Wilson.
“We thought about it during the timeout but the wind was blowing and thought too many things could go wrong,” McDonald said. “We thought we’d try a little dump pass to the tight end, not try to take a big chance and let the defense try and win it.”
And the defense did. The Rebels were near midfield when Gabe Bryant dropped back to pass and was intercepted by Dadeville’s Daquan Doss, ending the game and Reeltown’s hope of clinching a playoff spot Friday.
“This game wasn’t about scheme,” McDonald said. “It was about two teams battling. In the second half they (Reeltown) made some adjustments and coached them up and they got after us in the second half. They wanted to win and we wanted to win; that was the bottom line.”
According to McDonald, the Tigers bought into his style of play and have been on a roll, winning their last four games, minus the forfeit to Trinity last week.
“We had a great week of practice,” McDonald said. “In a rivalry game, it comes down to your team’s eagerness to prepare. Attribute this to our players and coaches that showed up Monday ready to work and focused.”
For the Rebels, an up-and-down season has remained just that. Rebel coach Matt Johnson said his team didn’t make enough plays Friday night and timely turnovers were the difference in a win and loss.
“They played better than we did and that’s what it boiled down to,” Johnson said. “We had a couple good drives but we fumbled the ball twice and threw a pick there at the end. Intercepted the ball and ran nearly ran it back but we have a personal foul and end up with no points — so little things like that, you can’t expect to win.”
The Rebels could have clinched their spot in the Class 3A playoffs on Friday, and although they didn’t win, they still can get to the dance for a chance to return to Jordan-Hare Stadium.
“We have to win next week or it’s one more game and that’s it,” Johnson said. “That was the message this week but I guess it wasn’t loud enough.”
Johnson said his defense made plays throughout the night but just didn’t make enough at the end of the day.
“I was very proud of our defense and thought we played really well,” Johnson said. “We did a really good job up front, especially in the second half; the first half felt like we couldn’t get off the field. The defense only gave up 132 total yards. You can’t lose games when your defense plays like that.”
Johnson believes the hot and cold Rebels can be fixed but they’re running out of time with just two games remaining.
“We will watch the film and see where the mistakes were,” Johnson said. “Some mistakes were obvious and others not so much, so we will go back and take a look.”