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File / The Outlook Reeltown's Eric Shaw, right, returns after an injury midway through the season last year. It was one of several key injuries for the Rebels in 2018.

Ever since the end of last season, Reeltown’s football team has wanted to get back out on the field. The Rebels can’t seem to shake the distaste of being upset in the first round of the playoffs after going undefeated in Class 2A Region 4.

But instead of letting that loss hurt Reeltown’s returning players, they have used it as nothing but motivation.

“Last year, we ended the region with a championship which was a high note but then we went into the first round of the playoffs and it was a tough loss for everybody,” Reeltown rising senior Logan Hunt said at 2019 Fox Sports High School Football Media Days on Wednesday at Southern Union State Community College. “It was a tough pill to swallow. Now all the motivation is us seniors have one last shot at making a run to Jordan-Hare (for the state championship). We felt like we had the talent last year but the injury bug got us a little bit. This year we’re just going in 100% and just giving it all that we can for one last run.”

Although the Rebels certainly graduated a lot of that talent, they also bring a lot back. They’re returning star running back Cameron Faison, who is the catalyst for Reeltown’s offense. The Rebels also hope to bring back running back Tre Tre Hughley, who is still working through an injury, and they’ll certainly rely on the heavily-recruited Eric Shaw who will play both ways.

Hunt could also be a big key for Reeltown but maybe not at quarterback, where he was the backup a year ago.

“There’s been a very healthy competition at quarterback (between Hunt and Iverson Hooks),” Rebel coach Matt Johnson said.

But even if Hunt isn’t the starting quarterback, he will have a very important role for Reeltown.

“Overall on our whole team that was our biggest team was our linebackers corps,” Johnson said. “Logan has put on 20-25 pounds since last year. He’s worked his tail off in the weight room so we moved him to inside linebacker. As of right now, he’s the best inside linebacker we’ve got.”

And Johnson said Hunt’s time spent as quarterback won’t go to waste on the defensive side of the ball.

“He’s already got that quarterback mentality, so he’s the quarterback of the defense,” Johnson said. “He communicates well and he makes all our checks. He’s really done a fantastic job there. He’s really set himself apart at inside linebacker.”

As for Shaw, who was also present at Wednesday’s Media Days, he’s had a busy summer balancing continuing to rehab his ACL injury from last year, being on the recruiting trail and returning for his senior season with Reeltown.

The injury, at least, isn’t something Shaw has to worry about anymore.

“I’m 100% now,” Shaw said. “There’s no pain, nothing. I don’t really think too much about it now. I just have to go out there and play now.” 

And like Hunt, even though Shaw wasn’t playing against Daleville during last year’s upset, he still has that bitter taste and certainly doesn’t want his senior campaign ending like that.

“It’s a whole different energy now,” Shaw said. “Everybody wants it. Everybody bought in in the weight room and on the field. We think about that loss and the injuries and we just take it as motivation now.”

Reeltown has been waiting a long time to take the field again, and with only a month away from the regular season, the Rebels seem to be hungrier than ever.

“It’s going to be awesome,” Hunt said. “We’ve been getting after each other in helmets and shorts as much as we can. But you can only do so much just practicing with each other so it’s really going to be fun to get out and get after it against a different opponent.” 

Lizi Arbogast is the sports editor at Tallapoosa Publishers Inc.