This is what Reeltown’s football team has been working toward all season, and the Rebels plan to lay it all on the line Friday afternoon as they face Fyffe for the AHSAA Class 2A championship.
“This what you do it for right here,” Reeltown coach Matt Johnson said. “It’s going to be tough. It’s going to be an enormous challenge. They have an extremely good football team and the past few years, they’re used to being there. But I feel good.”
There’s no doubt about it: Fyffe is a solid football team. The Red Devils are the defending 2A state champions and haven’t lost a game since 2017. They’ve won three of the last five state titles and they’re outscoring their opponents by a staggering 538-36 combined total this season.
“Nobody is stopping them and nobody is scoring on them,” Johnson said.
That will obviously be key: Can the Rebels (13-1) put up points?
Reeltown has scored nearly as much as Fyffe (14-0) has this season with 507 total points and it’s been in a lot of running-clock shortened games, so the Rebels could’ve easily put up a lot more than that.
So the game plan will be to keep things the same for the Rebels.
“We’re going to have to do something that nobody else has done, but we have to do what we do,” Johnson said. “What we can’t do is look up and say, ‘Oh my goodness, we’re playing Fyffe; we’ve got to start doing this and this and changing things.’ We gotta get better at what we do and trust what we do. We’re playing for a state championship. If we start throwing stuff out, we’ve lost before we get there.”
Fyffe doesn’t do anything fancy defensively. The Red Devils typically base out of a 3-4 defense or they’re in a 4-2-5, but “they just do it really well,” according to Johnson.
Zach Pyron is the quarterback of the effective offense, but he’s mostly a runner and a game manager. Johnson said he expects Fyffe to be extremely run heavy and it’ll run out of an offensive scheme similar to what the Rebels saw against G.W. Long. Pyron rushed for more than 100 yards in last week’s semifinal win against Collinsville. Ike Rowell also does a lot of damage out of the backfield.
Up front, the teams should match up fairly well size-wise, but Reeltown is going to have to be extremely physically and technically sound.
“Size wise, there’s not a huge difference,” Johnson said. “They’re just so technical and they’re an extremely strong football team. They have some really good size, but it’s not going to blow you away. I haven’t seen anybody as big as Vincent, but they’re very, very strong and quick.”
Johnson also hopes it was a benefit for the Rebels to see a similar offensive style against Long because the mix of shotgun and a wing-T offense Fyffe runs is difficult to duplicate.
As for Reeltown’s offense, the Rebels are certainly no slouch. Reeltown is going to stick to its bread and butter, the wishbone, and try to establish the run game early but it has many wrinkles it plans to instill and a few extra tricks up its sleeve.
“Everything is on the table this week,” Johnson said. “There’s not one thing that we’re going to say, ‘Oh, we won’t do that.’ We’ll have things people haven’t seen yet that we’ll be running and things defensively that we’ve held onto that we’ll do. This is it. What we do and what they do is very similar. It’s about weathering the storm and understanding the storm is going to be for 48 minutes, but we’re going to bring some rain and thunder ourselves.”
But going in with an underdog mentality isn’t necessarily a bad thing for the Rebels, who are hunting down their first state championship since 2009.
“The pressure is on them,” Johnson said. “They’ve won 29 in a row and they’re a huge favorite. They were there last year. They have demolished everybody and they have a perfect record, so the pressure is on them. They have to beat us. I told the guys, ‘Let’s do what we do and put the pressure back on them; let them play tight.’ We’re going to have fun playing our game.”