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Lizi Arbogast / The Outlook Reeltown's Tre Tre Hughley, left, and coach Matt Johnson share a moment after Thursday night's game.

“That is high school football at its best.”

That’s what Reeltown coach Matt Johnson had to say about Tre Tre Hughley following Thursday night’s game against Dadeville.

Hughley has battled and battled back from one of the most serious knee injuries last season. He was projected to be one of the Reeltown’s top two running backs in 2018, but those hopes were immediately dashed. On the first play from scrimmage, Hughley planted his foot and his knee turned wrong and the news couldn’t have been worse.

He had torn his patella. That’s the ligament that connects the kneecap to the tibia, and its rehab process to get back to full strength is long and arduous.

“That’s a whole nother animal,” Johnson said.

But Hughley stayed with the team during the entire season. He cheered from the sidelines and he was there for his teammates when they were down. And every day, he worked and rehabbed and got a little bit stronger.

During the Rebels’ season opener, Hughley played sparingly on defense at linebacker, getting in on about 10 plays. He once again played here and there defensively against Dadeville on Thursday; Hughley smacked a huge tackle for a loss against the Tigers’ Christian Nelson on his first play of the night.

But the plan to unleash him on offense came together last week, and in the final drive, Johnson went up to his senior, patted him on the helmet and said, “It’s your turn.”

In the two-tight wishbone that’s become the staple of Reeltown football, Hughley lined up in a true fullback position, blocking for running backs Cameron Faison and Scooter Brooks.

Then on third and 2 from the Rebel 22 and holding just an eight-point lead late in the fourth quarter, Reeltown needed a spark. And that spark came in the form of Hughley, who bullied his way for 7 yards and a much-needed first down.

“He worked his tail off all year long and got back and you see where he’s back to,” Johnson said. “For him to come in and the very first play he’s in the game, he gets a tackle for a loss; then we give him the ball at fullback and he gets a first down on the winning drive, that’s high school football. That is high school football at its best.”

Hughley was nearly speechless after the game.

“It felt good; it just felt really good,” Hughley said. “It was great to be back out there. I’m just happy right now.”

Prior to the game, Johnson was tight-lipped about how Hughley would be utilized in the Rebels’ rivalry game with Dadeville. But putting him at fullback seemed like the perfect fit.

“We put him in at fullback because he’s unselfish,” Johnson said. “At fullback, you gotta be unselfish in that offense and we threw him a bone every now and then. But for somebody like that just to be out there with us, that tells you how unselfish he is so he fits that position.”

Hughley and Johnson shared a moment after the game prior to the handshake, and although Johnson wouldn’t say what he told Hughley in that huddle, it was clear the moment meant a lot to both of them.

“Man, I don’t know if I can say,” Johnson said with a tear welling in his eye. “That’s what high school football is all about. I mean, he’s run through that wall right there for me. He’s a winner; he’s a competitor. To be where he’s at right now, that says enough about him right there.”

Lizi Arbogast is the sports editor at Tallapoosa Publishers Inc.