In such a tight football game — a playoff one at that — it’s hard to pinpoint just one moment that made the difference.
Reeltown might look back on Friday night’s 30-20 victory over J.U. Blacksher in the second round of the AHSAA Class 2A playoffs and think about Cameron Faison’s touchdown on the first offensive play from scrimmage. The Rebels might think about Faison’s pick six or Rhasheed Wilson’s fumble recovery. They might talk about Tre Tre Hughley’s touchdown from 14 yards out or Logan Lee’s interception that really seemed to turn the tides when things were going in the Bulldogs’ favor.
But one thing stands out above all, and that’s Connor Moore’s 42-yard field goal to put the game out of reach.
Extra points seem like they should be a given in football, but they’re not in high school and especially not in Class 2A. And to have a kicker like Moore, who’s been nearly flawless on PATs all year and can also boot a 42-yard field goal when it matters most, is extremely rare.
“Connor Moore, best kicker in Reeltown history,” Lee said. “I’m just going to say that. He’s a real good player. You know when he lines up for a field goal, it’s going to be good.”
In a pressure-packed situation like that, it’s not a given though. But for Moore, it seemed to be.
Wilson’s fumble recovery set up the important kick. Blacksher had about 3:30 to try to make a comeback as it was down 27-20, but on the first play of the Bulldogs’ drive, KD Rabb coughed it up when he was brought down by Iverson Hooks and Wilson jumped all over it.
That set up Reeltown from the Bulldog 20 and it couldn’t make anything happen offensively. The Rebels actually lost yardage on the drive.
“We lost yardage back to the 25-yard line and I still felt comfortable about it,” Reeltown coach Matt Johnson said. “I never even hesitated. He had the wind in his favor, and I was a little worried about the pressure. But it was a good snap, good hold and shoot, he kicked it and it would’ve been good from a few more yards even. I was extremely proud of him and he did a great job on kickoffs and punts too.”
Moore’s field goal obviously wasn’t the only thing to lead Reeltown to the victory and all those other important moments are what ultimately added up to the win.
Like Johnson has been wanting all year long, the Rebels got another fast start. After forcing the Bulldogs to go three and out on their first drive, Faison took his very first handoff 50 yards to the house.
“We came out and had a good stop on defense so we had the motivation,” Faison said. “So our line came out fast and came out hard and it just opened up for me.”
Reeltown continued to build on that lead with the score from Hughley then the Faison pick six just three plays later. The Rebels scored twice within two minutes to go ahead 20-0 four minutes into the second quarter.
“If we come out feeling them out, we lose this game,” Johnson said. “You could tell they were say, ‘Hey, let’s weather their storm,’ and they weathered our storm and pushed right back. That’s what I told our guys at halftime is they think they’ve weathered the storm so we have to come back out here with some thunder and lightning.”
Things started to go Blacksher’s way midway through the second quarter and the Bulldogs pulled within 20-13 just before halftime. Reeltown didn’t quite seem to have its same offensive footing early in the third quarter either.
But then Lee, who finished with 10 tackles and three sacks, had a key interception that seemed to change the Rebels’ whole outlook.
“They were throwing the deep ball and we were defending that well,” Johnson said. “They knew our outside linebacker had to respect their run. We got into halftime and we were able to adjust that outside linebacker and say, ‘Hey, we need you to get underneath.’ That’s exactly what happened. I don’t know if an adjustment has ever worked so good. I hadn’t seen Logan hit that hard all year — even in practice. He laid some licks.”
That set up a touchdown by Scooter Brooks on the ensuing drive that was ultimately the game winner.
Reeltown will host G.W. Long, a 28-13 victor over previously unbeaten Luverne, in the quarterfinals next week.